Did George Eastman invent photography? SHOW

George Eastman did not invent photography, but he is heralded as the father of popular photography. With Mr. Eastman’s inventions of flexible roll film and the Kodak camera of 1888 and $1 Brownie camera of 1900, photography became available to the amateur masses. Photography's basic principles, processes, and materials were discovered virtually simultaneously in the early 19th century by a diverse group of individuals of different nationalities, working for the most part entirely independently of one another. These four are French physicist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce; French painter Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre; English scientist William Henry Fox Talbot; and English astronomer Sir John Herschel. Niépce made the first negative (on paper) in 1816 and the first known photograph (on metal; he called it a heliograph) in 1826. Daguerre had been experimenting along parallel lines, and the two men collaborated until Niépce's death in 1833. Daguerre continued their work for the next six years and in 1839 announced the invention of a method for making a direct positive image on a silver plate — the daguerreotype. Daguerre's announcement was a source of dismay to Fox Talbot, who had been experimenting independently along related lines for years. Talbot had evolved a method for making a paper negative from which an infinite number of paper positives could be created. He had also worked out an effective although imperfect technique for permanently “fixing” his images, known as the calotype process. Also in 1839, Herschel had managed to fix pictures using hyposulphite of soda, known as “hypo.” In fact it was he who had discovered 20 years previously the suitability of hypo as a fixing agent for sensitized paper images. Herschel is also credited with giving the new medium the name “photography.” Mr. Eastman has 32 patents to his name, among his inventions are:
  • The Kodak Camera
  • Photographic film
  • Flexible photographic film
  • Photographic film holder
  • Photographic roll holder
  • Roll holding camera

Where was Eastman born? SHOW

Mr. Eastman was born in Marshall, N. Y., in 1854. His boyhood home was in Waterville, located in Central New York about a two-hour drive east of Rochester.

Mr. Eastman never married. Is there evidence he was a homosexual? SHOW

Research has revealed no evidence that Mr. Eastman was homosexual. Later in life, when questioned by a friend as to why he never married young, he stated: "I was too busy and too poor."

Was Mr. Eastman liked in Rochester? SHOW

A wise student of psychology pointed out that being grateful and under obligation to dispensers of favors, especially if they are rich and powerful, can create distrust and a certain amount of resentment. For this reason, many people feared and disliked Mr. Eastman. However, even his critics respected him, not because of his wealth and influence, but because of his philanthropic gifts to the community. People who got to know him well liked him very much, but he was a private man.

How large was Mr. Eastman’s immediate family? SHOW

Comprised of the father who died in 1862, George Washington Eastman; mother Maria Kilbourn Eastman, died in 1907; sister, Emma Kate Eastman (had polio and was confined to a wheelchair), died in 1870; and elder sister, Ellen Maria Eastman, died in 1884 (mother of Ellen Amanda and Royal Vilas Andrus).

Did Mr. Eastman have any close relationships with women? SHOW

Although Mr. Eastman adored beautiful, intelligent women and always surrounded himself with them, he never proposed marriage that we know of, and perhaps was never seriously in love. He had close friendships with women, mostly safely married women, all his life- example, the Lobster Quartet, after 1920. Also note his close relationship with Mrs. Josephine Dickman. Josephine Dickman was the widow of George Dickman, head of Mr. Eastman’s Kodak Limited office in England. Mr. Eastman helped Josephine Dickman come back to Boston and get settled after her husband’s death, which was the start of their close friendship. She introduced him to the arts when they spent time together in Boston. She also served as hostess at many parties and traveled with Mr. Eastman to his Oak Lodge property in North Carolina.

How much money did Mr. Eastman donate during his lifetime? SHOW

In excess of $100 million. In today's dollars it would total between $1.6 billion and $2 billion. Close to half of that total was donated to the University of Rochester.

What did George Eastman fund or found in Rochester? SHOW

George Eastman can be called the "Father of Rochester." He believed Rochester should be the best city in which to work and raise a family, and as a result he heavily funded healthcare, education, and the arts. Rochester donations include support for Hillside Children's Center, Rochester Friendly Home, University of Rochester and Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester Institute of Technology, American Red Cross, and the chamber of commerce, and donated land for several city and county parks. In Rochester Mr. Eastman founded Kodak, the Center for Governmental Research, the United Way, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Eastman School of Music and Eastman Theatre, Strong Hospital, and a dental dispensary. His far-reaching philanthropies include dental dispensaries in several countries, plus funding for Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuskegee Institute, and Hampton Institute -- with most of the donations made anonymously.

How many servants did Mr. Eastman employ at the mansion? SHOW

Approximately 10 in 1905 and more later. During large events or in the summer this would increase, as he had outdoor staff, and hired day laborers at the back gates. An organizational chart found at the House indicates the possibility for as many as 30 domestic staff.

Did any of the staff live at the mansion? SHOW

Most of the staff lived off-site in homes owned by Mr. Eastman, their own, or rented. In 1903, Mr. Eastman owned three houses on Jersey Street (off University Avenue and later renamed Russell Street). However, some of the staff may have lived in the mansion for a brief time (butler, valet, housekeeper, groundskeeper). The chauffeur Harvey Paddleford and his wife and daughter lived on the grounds.

How did Mr. Eastman die? SHOW

He took his own life on March 14, 1932, by a single gunshot to the heart.

Was Mr. Eastman ill during this time? SHOW

Yes, he had a heart condition, severe diabetes, a degenerative spinal disease affecting the spinal tissue, and arthritis.

What were the reasons for George Eastman taking his own life? SHOW

Speculation has identified a number of reasons. His health was deteriorating. He saw a number of his contemporaries in wheelchairs, bedridden, or losing their mental faculties. We know he did not want this to happen to him. Towards the end, his staff had virtually isolated him from his friends by restricting visits to fifteen minutes, morning and afternoon. His quality of life was not up to his standards, and he decided that because he was losing control of this life, he did not wish to continue. Eastman once discussed the issue of suicide with the Lobster Quartet.

Did he leave a note or message? SHOW

A short note... "To my friends, My work is done, why wait? GE"

Was there a tunnel between the Hutchison House and the mansion? SHOW

No. Alice Whitney, George Eastman’s secretary for 42 years, married Charles Hutchison, a Kodak executive, in 1927, and built a home next door to George Eastman House. She remained Mr. Eastman’s secretary until his death. Legend has it a tunnel connected the Hutchison House and George Eastman House for Mrs. Whitney-Hutchison’s easy access to Eastman’s mansion. Although no tunnel has been found in this area, a service tunnel does exist between the main house to the potting sheds and greenhouses. It was used to bring coal and supplies to the mansion from adjoining outbuildings.

When was the mansion constructed? SHOW

Construction began in April 1903, and was completed in 1905. Mr. Eastman and his mother moved into the house in June 1905, and had a party in October 1905.

What was the cost? SHOW

The cost is estimated at $335,000, without furniture, in 1905.

How large is the house? The whole estate? SHOW

The mansion is 35,000 square feet, with 50 rooms, 15 bedrooms, 9 fireplaces and 13 baths. Mr. Eastman initially purchased 8.5 acres, but added 2 acres during his occupancy. It is currently 10.5 acres at this time.

What is the mansion worth today? SHOW

Incalculable. Priceless!

What was the cost for restoration? SHOW

Total cost to restore gardens, house exterior and first floor of mansion: $1,700,000.

What happened to his mansion after his death? SHOW

Mr. Eastman willed it to the University of Rochester as a residence for its presidents and their families. In 1947 it was chartered as a museum and opened to the public in 1949. In 1988-90 it was restored to its original elegance and reopened to the public in January 1990 with a series of special events.

When did Mr. Eastman enlarge the conservatory and how much did it cost? SHOW

In 1919 Mr. Eastman had the mansion cut in half. The north (rear) section was moved 9 ft. 4 in. north. The cost was $750,000; the project took approximately 3 months, moving 7 hours on one day. The house was moved with horizontal hydraulic jacks on railroad ties with special wheels and tracks.

Where did the name Kodak come from? SHOW

Kodak remains today the most recognizable brand name in the world (tied with Coca-Cola). George Eastman made up the name in 1888. He remarked to a magazine editor in 1920, “The letter K has been a favorite with me. It seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” It is also believed that the letter K was chosen in homage to his mother's maiden name, Kilbourn. With his mother, Mr. Eastman tried a number of letter combinations, creating words that started and ended with the letter K. Eventually, he settled on Kodak, a name universally identifiable and not translatable to any other meaning in any other language (an important aspect for marketing and patenting). On safari in Africa however, Eastman visited a native village called Kodok.

Was George Eastman related to Linda Eastman McCartney? SHOW

No relation that the Museum can determine.

What is the Dryden Theatre connection? SHOW

Ellen Dryden (daughter of Eastman’s sister, and his favorite niece) and her husband, Mr. George Dryden donated the money for the construction of the Dryden Theatre in 1950, in Mr. Eastman’s memory.

Was Mr. Eastman religious? SHOW

No, he was not particularly religious, but included in his circle of friends and associates were a number of local and national religious leaders. For example, the Rev. George Norton, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, across the street from George Eastman House. Eastman maintained a family pew there, particularly for his mother. One story relates that it was known when Mr. Eastman was in church, because the collection plate would include a tightly folded, large denomination bill.

Did Mr. Eastman ever play an instrument? SHOW

Yes, he purchased a flute at a young age, learned to play Annie Laurie, attended a concert where Annie Laurie was the featured piece, and then gave away the flute with the realization he did not have the talent for musical instruments.

What is the history of the third floor? SHOW

Mr. Eastman originally used some of the area for general storage and he hung his hunting trophies on the hallway walls. He had a kitchen, workshop, lab, darkroom and billiard room on this floor. In addition, Mr. Eastman had a film screening room where he reviewed motion pictures before they were shown in Eastman Theatre. It is said that he once censored the famous documentary “NANOOK OF THE NORTH” because it showed Eskimo couples rubbing noses! Perhaps a myth. The third floor was also used as servants’ quarters and living space for his niece’s family when they would visit. Mr. Eastman celebrated certain holidays with family and close friends in this area. In 1949, when George Eastman House opened as a museum, General Oscar Solbert, the first director, had living quarters on the third floor. Currently the area is used as office space for Museum staff.

What is the origin of the crystal globes at the ends of the railings on the grand staircase? SHOW

These glass accessories are known as “Finials.” These are not the original crystal finials. The originals (much smaller seen in early photographs) were replaced during the occupancy of the University of Rochester. The present pieces are not Steuben crystal, as is popularly believed. The manufacturer is unknown.

Why was the mansion restored? SHOW

Fifty-five years after the death of George Eastman, his house and grounds bore little resemblance to their original beauty. The goal of the restoration was to present to the public an historic house that would serve as a three-dimensional biography of its owner. Through interpretive exhibits and tours, visitors may come to understand the lifestyle, accomplishments, and responsibilities of a prominent industrialist of the early 20th century; the "first citizen of Rochester."

What influenced Eastman in the design and furnishings of the mansion? SHOW

Traveling in Europe and the United States, he researched architectural styles extensively and formed his preference. According to Mr. Eastman’s biographer, Betsy Brayer, his man, Frank L Babbott, hired William Rutherford Mead as interior consultant and Burt Leslie Fenner as consultant for lighting features and architectural details. McKim, Mead and White had also performed President Theodore Roosevelt’s renovations at the White House. Mr. Eastman may have been aware of this work. This resulted in a comfortable blend of classical and 20th century elements. His house design is an example of grand American Colonial Revival, and the furnishings mirror the American Empire style.

What associations did Mr. Eastman have with other wealthy industrialists or benefactors? SHOW

Mr. Eastman’s associations with leading industrialists of his time were strictly on a business level. They attended business conventions and had their pictures taken together, but there was not a personal association. Ford, Firestone, and Edison were close friends, having family outings together on a regular basis. However, Mr. Eastman, not having a family that included children, was never invited. From the group, Edison was probably the closest to Mr. Eastman. Mr. Eastman and Edison visited each other’s homes and exchanged Christmas cards.
Mr. Eastman’s philanthropic gifts were made on a very personal and independent level. He was one of the top four philanthropists of his time and the single largest supporter of African-American education in the 1920s. He received many requests for money and selected himself the charities and benefactors for these donations. Rockefeller approached Mr. Eastman in 1908 for a donation for a New York City orphanage. Mr. Eastman refused. In 1920, the Rockefeller Foundation was involved in the funding of the Strong Hospital, and met with Mr. Eastman to elicit his support. Mr. Eastman gave generously to this project.


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