The Way It Was: George Eastman

By February 17, 2008The Way It Was

The%20Way%20It%20Was.jpgIn 1877, a slim young bank clerk named George Eastman bought his first camera and set out to photograph a natural bridge. He took along a tripod, a darkroom tent and bottles of chemicals. In the darkness of the tent, he coated a glass plate with a thin solution of egg white, and then laid on an emulsion of gun cotton and alcohol mixed with bromide salts. When the emulsion was set but still moist, he dipped the plate in a solution of nitrate of silver and shielded it from light as he put it in the camera.

Whew! That was what you needed to do back then to take a photograph. Eastman thought, hmmm, there’s got to be a better way.

Eastman went to work. In 1888, he went to market with a handheld camera with a light-sensitive roll of treated paper inside. He called it Kodak because he liked the sound of the K. He sold 13,000 cameras for $25 each, a lot of money back then. You took 100 shots and sent the camera back to Eastman. He sent you your photos and another roll of film.

It was still too complicated. In 1900, he came out with the immortal Brownie that he sold for $1 each. Within a year, he sold 250,000. Eastman had made photography an everyday event for the average consumer.

Eastman kept inventing all his life and gave away $100 million for education and racial advancement.

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