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George Eastman was an inventor who brought photographic film to the typical household. His invention of the film roll set the stage for easily portable cameras and brought the idea of motion pictures to other inventors.
George Eastman was born in Waterville, New York, on June 26, 1854. He went to work in an insurance office at the age of 14 and in 1874 became a junior bookeeper in the Rochester Savings Bank. In his spare time, he pursued his hobby of photography and developed a process for coating dry plates. He patented the process and launched a manufacturing venture in Rochester, New York in 1879, in partnership with Col. Henry A. Strong, to produce this product.
Eastman patented his first flexible, paper-backed roll of film in 1884, he reorganized his operation at the Eastman Dry Plate & Film Company. The Kodak, a small, box camera, was introduced in 1889 and in 1889, the firm devised a transparent film which could be used in motion pictures. To capitalize on the brand name, Eastman reorganized himself again as the Eastman Kodak Company during the summer of 1892. Further products included a folding camera in 1897 and color film in 1920.
Eastman Kodak factory employees in Rochester and Harrow, England numbered 3,000 by 1900 and 15,000 in 1920.
During his life, Eastman contributed more than $100 million to numerous organizations, particularly the University of Rochester, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Tuskegee and Hampton institutes.
In Rochester on March 14, 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, George Eastman took his own life. Eastman's innovations made photography accessible for the masses. For the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1954, Eastman was honored with a postage stamp from the United States Post Office.
The American Experience | George Eastman: The Wizard of Photography
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