Roll film

He gave the world a camera for the price of one dollar

George Eastman (Waterville, New York, July 12, 1854 – Rochester, New York, March 14, 1932)

George Eastman came from a family that valued every dollar. His father died when he was five and his mother was left with two girls, one of whom was severely handicapped, and little George.

From the age of fourteen he was able to work as an errand boy for an insurance company, for an amount of three dollars a week. A year later he found work as an office boy at another firm, where he soon learned how to write policies and was earning five dollars a week.

But even that was not enough to support the family. He studied bookkeeping at night and in 1874 was hired as the youngest clerk at a bank for fifteen dollars.

When Eastman was 24, he apparently had enough savings to plan a vacation in Santo Domingo. A colleague on the couch suggested that it would be nice if he could take pictures of that trip. At that time, the purchase of photographic equipment was a lot of work.

The camera alone was the size of a modern microwave oven, the tripod weighed very heavy. Eastman had to buy a tent in which he could spread the photographic emulsion onto the glass plates before exposing them to light and develop the plates afterwards.

There were also the inevitable chemicals, glass jars, a box to store the record cassettes and a water jug. The entire equipment was the size of a hefty horseload, as Eastman later put it.

The office clerk became completely captivated by photography, he forgot about Santo Domingo and took lessons from a local photographer. He came up with the idea of producing dry plates, which you did not have to develop immediately after exposure. During the day he worked on the couch and at night he experimented in his mother's kitchen. She once said that George was often so tired that she found him sleeping next to the stove on the floor in the morning.

By 1880 he had the concept ready to produce his dry plates on a large scale. A year later he gave up his job at the bank.

Then he replaced the glass with a special kind of paper. He then developed a roll film holder with a roll of film that fit in all existing cameras. But he was still not satisfied.

He believed that everyone should be able to photograph, without the need for your own darkroom and without having to mess with chemicals.

In 1888 he had completed his own device, the Kodak Camera, with a roll of film for a hundred pictures and the slogan: 'You press the button and we do the rest.' After the hundredth shot you had to send the whole camera to the company, who replaced the used film with a new one and after which the customer got his camera back.

Ten days later the negatives and prints followed.

There are many stories about the origin of the word 'kodak'. Eastman himself said: 'I came up with the name myself. The letter k is a favorite letter of mine, a strong, cutting letter.

I then juggled a whole bunch of words that all started and ended with a k. The word 'kodak' was the result. It's a short word, it can't be misspelled and it can't be confused with any other word.'

The overwhelming success forced Eastman to expand rapidly. In 1896, after eight years, the 100,000th device came off the production line. The paperback version cost $5 at the time. In 1900, his famous Brownie finally came on the market, at the whopping price of one dollar.

By now he also owned a factory in London and distribution houses in France, Germany and Italy.
The well-to-do Eastman remained single throughout his life and spent his old age handing out money. Under a well-kept pseudonym, he played benefactor for the university.

The famous camera maker George Eastman in Paris in 1890 photographed by Nadar dig was also that he gave hospitals all over the world - including a hospital in Brussels - complete dental equipment as a gift.

Eastman: 'It is a medical fact that if teeth, nose, throat and mouth are properly cared for in children at a crucial age, they will have better chances in life because of their better appearance, better health and more energy.' Eastman would never forget the misery of his childhood.

One day in March 1932, when he was 77, he unexpectedly gave his servants time off, retired to his study, wrote a scribble to his friends, and shot himself in the head. The note read: “For my friends.

My work is finished. Why wait?'

The shot ended the life of a man who not only invented the roll film, but also made the camera immensely popular.

And with his roll film, Louis Le Prince was able to make the world's first feature film in 1888, just like a few years later Thomas Edison, the brothers Lumière and Georges Meliès.
(See also: Bakelite, Polaroid camera)