George Eastman: A Biography
This life of George Eastman is the first biography since 1930 of the man who transformed the world of photography. As a 23-year-old bank clerk, Eastman bought his first camera and began simplifying the cumbersome and messy wet-plate process. With only two years' experience, he patented a dry-plate coating machine and began selling photographic plates. Soon, the business was doing so well that he quit his job at the bank and started his own company.
Eastman's success was based in part on his own inventions, but even more on his ability to raise capital, recruit technically skilled employees, sell his own products, and outmaneuver his competitors. In this revealing and informative new biography, Brayer shows us how such key innovations as roll film and the light, hand-held camera helped the Eastman Kodak Company dominate the world market.
More importantly, Brayer draws a vivid portrait of the man behind the money. Eastman worked hard at keeping out of the limelight and even insisted that his donations be kept anonymous, prompting the Boston Globe to call him "America's most modest and least- known millionaire." His aggressive business personality was a sharp contrast to his personal life: Eastman once joked that it was his goal to take two six-month vacations in a year. He would regularly forsake the office to bicycle around Europe or ride a stagecoach through the snowy trails of Yellowstone Park. He was an art lover, who once bartered 60 shares of Kodak stock in the 1890s for a painting he felt he must have, and a classical music enthusiast, who built a school for the training of virtuosos.
Despite his retirement in 1925, Eastman showed little sign of slowing down. Making moneyhad been interesting, but putting money to work became more so. In the 1920s he designed a special camera for use in orthodontia and established elaborate dental clinics for needy children in Rochester, London, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, and Rome. He oversaw the building of the Eastman Theatre and the Eastman School of Music. His contributions built a new campus for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a new medical school for the University of Rochester. Finally, he became the largest contributor to the education of African Americans during the 1920s and the Tuskeegee Institute's most important benefactor.
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