George Eastman is the man behind the creation of the Kodak film business. Kodak is a household name but not any name for familiar to George as he made the name up. Why didn’t George name it after himself? Maybe he thought his invention would not go far and he wanted to save himself some embarrassment. Not only did the business do well but George made more money than he could have imagined. To celebrate his success, he donated money to some of his favorite organizations where he felt the extra finances would be a welcomed blessing.
George was born in Waterville, New York on July 12, 1854. At the time, the western half of the United States was still primarily frontier. So, living on the East Coast and in New York was not too bad. Life was busy there, and the newspaper brought the political gossip of the day. George’s parents were well off. His father was in charge of a business college in Rochester. His mother stayed home caring for George who was the baby of the family. No doubt the two sisters older than him helped out nurturing and caring for George.
When George reached age 7, his father died. His mother rented rooms in the home to earn income and keep her family going. George loved going to school in Rochester but felt his mother needed him at home more. In 1877, at the age of 23, George found work as a bookkeeper. He earned good money and saved what he could to invest in his hobby as an amateur photographer. During a trip to Mackinac Island in Michigan, George spilled photographic chemicals and ruined his clothes. He needed a better way to travel with his photography supplies and thought about what he could do.
The first thing George did was try photography using dry plates instead of wet ones. This new technique took the messy spill able chemical away during photo processing. He then created a coating machine to apply gelatin to a dry plate and the device he used for this he patented in England in 1879 and the United States in 1880. After selling his English patent, he opened a shop in his hometown to manufacture his plate. He eventually replaced the glass with paper. When someone developed film, they could pull the paper away, and the remaining product was a negative copy.
George, along with another man named William Walker, took the product one step further by creating a roll, forming a more extended portion of the film and a holder for storage. The holder could fit any camera at the time. Sometime later others came along to create a similar product using the technology used by workers in Eastman’s manufacturing plant. A lawsuit ensued with George having to pay the suing party a large sum of money. It did not deter him, however. He continued to work to improve his product. In 1888, George created a Camera he named Kodak. This camera allowed ordinary folks to take photos and send them to the manufacturing plant for processing. It was easy to use and affordable. George marketed his product on simplicity and convenience. By 1892 George founded Eastman Kodak Company where his film products could be mass produced.
George continued to improve his product and to reinvent his business. He was a driven man not only for money and prestige but also he looked for ways to give back to society. George was a job creator. He treated employees well and assisted other inventors. George provided products used in Hollywood and world war. George never married. Perhaps he never found the time to find a suitor. Maybe his world gave him joy nothing else could. George ended his own life after pondering his accomplishments. He did this because he felt he had completed his work on earth and there wasn’t anything else for him to do. His rest was to be his final rest.
What would George think of his product now where so many have depended on his technology? Even today with all of the digital technology available there are those out there was still love to process film and enjoy the products that George created over 100 years ago.