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Colin Harding, on:
William Walker

Colin Harding Q: Tell me who Walker was, and how he and Eastman got along.

George Eastman first got involved in Walker when he was working on the roll holder system. William Walker, of course, was a manufacturer in his own right, and had manufactured cameras and had recently moved into the photographic emulsion and plate field. Walker introduced an element of technical expertise, which Eastman obviously found very helpful. And together, they worked to develop their system of film photography and the roll holder. Interesting to note, of course, that this roll holder was originally named the Walker-Eastman Roll Holder, but very soon it became the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder. And perhaps that's led to some complications later on in the relationship between the two men.

Q: So Eastman made Walker the president of the British branch.

Yes. When George Eastman was looking to expand into Europe and to set up a branch in London, he chose William Walker as the man to actually go ahead and actually plan the invasion for him. So Walker was dispatched across to London as part of the Inventors' Exhibition in 1885, and then to set up a London branch in Soho Square in London.

Q: So he must have trusted him. Were they good friends?

I don't think "friends" is the word to describe the relationship. Initially, of course, it's very much a business partnership, and Walker contributed a technical element, a camera manufacturing element, which Eastman prized. There's a strange tension–Eastman worked better with Walker when Walker was at a distance. So partly, I think he felt that if Walker was in London, then their relationship would improve. However, of course, the further away he was, there was more possibility that Walker could get up the things without Eastman controlling what he was doing. So there was a tension there, that it was better that Walker was away from Rochester; on the other hand, Eastman still wanted to keep an eye on what he was doing.

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