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The American Experience
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David McCullough, Series Host: Hello and welcome to The American Experience. I'm David McCullough

What would you try to save first if the house were on fire? The most common answer is the family photographs. To lose them would be like loosing part of ourselves, such is their place in our lives.

We save them in albums, carry them in wallets. We put them in frames, arrange them on dresser tops and office desks...the wife, the husband, the new baby, the biggest fish of the summer.

Yet this wasn't always the way in American life -- not before young George Eastman of Rochester, New York, set to work on simplifying the apparatus of photography who came up with the famous Kodak camera. A brilliant innovator in a great age of American innovation, Eastman, like Edison, Bell, H.J. Heinz, changed how we live. With the Kodak and even more with the ubiquitous Brownie, everyone could make a picture -- a "snap shot" -- for the record, for the fun of it, and with no fuss. Everyone and anyone could be creative in a way never possible before.

The Eastman story is the stuff of legend. He was the poor widow's son who started off as a three-dollar-a-week clerk and by dint of hard work and phenomenal determination rose to vast fame and wealth.

But he was also a solitary, decidedly different kind of industrial giant who, on the one hand, hired Pinkerton agents to spy on his own salesmen, and who on the other hand, introduced the first profit sharing plan.

And, oh, was he methodical! Once, to learn cooking, he began by trying every known recipe for eggs.

The Wizard of Photography by producer James DeVinney.


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