Thursday, April 12, 2012


While my son was here with his girlfriend we took them to the George Eastman House. That name may sound familiar to you because he was the founder of Eastman Kodak right here in my home town of Rochester, New York. 

A little history lesson; Eastman decided to go on a trip and wanted to take pictures but was put off by all the equipment and work it took to actually take them. He was a tinkerer and eventually in 1884 Eastman invented and patented the first film in roll form. Four years later he introduced the first roll film camera and used the slogan "You push the button, we do the rest."  In 1892 Eastman Kodak Company was created and photography for the masses was available. After taking your photos and the film was used up you mailed it to the company in Rochester NY where the pictures would be developed, printed and returned to you along with new roll of film. I can remember doing this as late as the 1970's before drugstores offered the service.

A huge advancement in the venture of photography was the invention of flexible transparent film devised and manufactured by Eastman Kodak. This film was used by Eastman's friend Thomas Edison in his early trials of the motion picture camera and eventually used to film movies.

George Eastman was a very successful inventor and businessman despite dropping out of school at age 15 to help support his family. His father died of a brain illness when he was 7 and later one of his sisters died of polio. In the last years of his own life he suffered from spinal stinosis. Durning Eastman's lifetime he was a quiet philanthropist and donated over 100 million dollars, mostly under the alias of Mr. Smith  to organizations promoting good health and higher education. Eastman realized the value of a good education and his largest donations went to the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institution of Technology, Tuskegee Institute, Hampton Institute, Rochester Dental Dispensary, and several European dental clinics. He loved music but couldn't play an instrument and established the Eastman School of Music one of the top music schools in the United States.

On March 14, 1932 at age 74 George Eastman met with several people to go over his will and wishes and later that day committed suicide. His suicide note was short and to the point, "To my friends, My work is done, why wait".

Still with me? 
Let's go on a tour of The Eastman House.

Camera marketed to children.
This is a three strip technicolor camera from 1932. Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz were filmed on this kind of camera. The Eastman House has the negatives from these films in their archive vault.
Drive in movie camera 1950
Beautiful sideboard and silver tea service.
The dinning room.
Ellen and Kevin and the elephant in the room.
A raccoon fur rug over the couch.
A chest given to Eastman by 
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Eastman was a small and large game hunter and killed this elephant while on one of several trips to Africa as well as a rhino. In his later years he "shot" his animals with a camera.
Part of the library. The object in the lower right is a wastebasket made out of an elephant foot. Below is the living room with a Steinway piano that Eastman couldn't play.
The grand staircase.
The spindles were modeled after three kinds of nautical rope.
Here we are with the conservatory below us.
Mr. Eastman loved his mother dearly and took the best care possible of her. He would try to shower her with luxuries but she was a simple woman. She lived with him her entire life.

Below is his camping equipment used during his safaris.
 Free cameras!

His final act.

One last fact; the word Kodak doesn't mean a thing. Mr. Eastman wanted a word that sounded unique  and would be remembered so he made it up.

Today as the saying goes, George Eastman must be rolling in his grave. Kodak has been hit by very hard times and has filed for bankruptcy. They were once a huge part of Rochester employment scene but fell victim to the digital age. Maybe they were in denial about the demise of film photography and tried to do to little too late. Eastman's legacy is tarnished but his philantropic endeavors live on.


Eugene Salomon said...

I had a woman from Rochester in my cab a few months ago who went into quite a rant about the short-sightedness of the Kodak executives who didn't prepare for the coming of the digital age, especially since, apparently, eveyone else could see it coming. What a blow this must be to the economy of Rochester.