The Film & More|
Narrator: In 1857, a three-year-old boy waited to have his photograph taken, fascinated by the scene before him. The smell of chemicals filled the air. A stranger told a woman not to move... and made sure she didn't.
Grant Romer, Historian: Some photographers were very adept and artful in their putting the sitter at ease. Others had no idea about the art of that, and just plunked people down. You were told to hold still and how long the exposure would take, which may be anywhere from three to six or eight seconds. And the moment of the shutter or the cap being removed. "All right now. I'm ready. Hold still. Assume a pleasant expression. Here we go." One second, two seconds, three seconds, four seconds. Usually during that time your mind is going "mmmmmm." And keeping from- from moving during the act of thinking different thoughts was a challenge to the sitter.
Narrator: Finally, it was the boy's turn. Strapped into the chair so he couldn't move, he stared suspiciously. His name was George Eastman. Thirty years later, he would make a camera so simple that every man, woman and child could use it. First, he had to overcome fierce competition and embarrassing failures as he struggled to make photography easy and affordable for everyone. In the process, he forever changed the way people see their world.
Narrator: In 1877, George Eastman, a twenty-three-year old junior bookkeeper, walked into a photo supply store in Rochester, New York. He was looking for a camera to take pictures of land he wanted to buy.
Kathleen Connor, Curator: As he worked at the bank, he realized that many of the wealthy depositors in the bank were all involved with real estate in one way, shape, or form. And so I think he decided that getting into some real estate deals himself might be a way to make some more money.
Narrator: Eastman had never taken a picture before and the new camera proved harder to use than he expected.
George Eastman Reading: "I could do nothing with my first outfit until after I had paid a professional photographer...five dollars to give me lessons."
George Eastman Reading: "The bulk of the paraphernalia worried me: a camera about the size of a soapbox, a tripod, which was strong and heavy enough to support a bungalow, a big plate holder, a dark-tent, a nitrate bath and a container for water."
Narrator: To take a single picture, photographers had to pour layers of chemicals over a glass plate, forming a light-sensitive emulsion. Because the picture had to be taken before the emulsion dried, the process was called "wet plate" photography. Despite the cumbersome process, early photographers managed to travel throughout the world...
In Rochester, George Eastman struggled to take a picture of the Genesee River. But carrying those chemicals was messy and they were hard to use. He felt there had to be a better way. Each evening, he spent hours studying international photo journals. He discovered that British photographers were experimenting with "dry" plates -- pre-coated so the chemicals could be left at home. Eastman had stumbled onto something that few Americans knew about.
Reese Jenkins, Historian: The standard photographers are not as informed of the British journals and so on. And they are well wedded to the old way of doing photography. But here's this young novice, having trouble, struggling with the technology. And here's this new technology. And it just draws him. And he says, "Why not try this?"
Narrator: Eastman was determined to make his own dry plates, even though he was a school dropout who had never studied chemistry. George Eastman was born in 1854 in Waterville, a small village in eastern New York. He was the youngest of three children and the only boy born to Maria Kilbourn and George Washington Eastman. George's father ran two successful businesses. In Waterville, his nursery sold roses and fruit trees. Each week, he commuted one hundred and thirty miles west, to Rochester, New York where he opened a business school. He taught bookkeeping and penmanship. When George was three years old, his father's health failed. He sold the Waterville farm and moved the family to Rochester. In May of 1862, when George was seven, his father died. Maria discovered her husband had left no money.
Elizabeth Brayer, Biographer: Mr. Eastman's father should have been very successful in the business school. But, after he died, there was nothing left. And it was a great shock to Maria that, uh, she had not been provided for. And no one really knows where that income went.
Narrator: George watched his mother struggle to support her family by taking in boarders, scrubbing and cooking for strangers.
Kathleen Connor: I think that when you grow up in an environment where you have a mother and father, and you live in a very comfortable home, and you go to a private school, and you have basically all you need, and then all of a sudden that is sort of taken away from you, kind of quickly, kind of suddenly, without any preparation, it probably gives you that inborn fear of wanting to make sure you always are prepared, always have thought things through, that nothing is a surprise like that again.
Narrator: With his mother busy taking care of boarders, George often played alone. But he was handy and made puzzles and toys to amuse himself.
Kathleen Connor: He went to Sunday school with one of these little trinkets, and was playing with it during the sermon, and, uh, one of the other young boys at the church liked it and wanted it. And he told him he wouldn't part with it at first, and he stopped the conversation. And then he realized, well, he could make another one, and he could sell it and make some money.
Narrator: Making money gave young Eastman a sense of importance. In 1868, at age fourteen, he quit school and took a job as an office boy. He tracked every dollar he earned and spent in meticulous ledgers. He became a bit of a dandy: he bought fine clothes, took dancing lessons and attended lectures. In 1875 Eastman became junior bookkeeper at the Rochester Savings Bank. But he wanted more. He began acquiring real estate. These investments launched a casual interest in photography -- an interest that soon became an obsession. In his mother's kitchen, he struggled to make dry plates like the ones he had read about. After working all day at the bank, he stayed up late each night, stirring chemicals, pouring them onto glass plates, and baking them in the oven. Many mornings, his mother found him asleep on the floor. He tested his plates by taking pictures of the house across the street. A local photographer saw these pictures, bought the plates and recommended them to the Anthony Company -- a leading photo supply store in New York City.
John Staudenmaier, S.J., Technology Historian: Anthony is a company that's in the business of marketing on a national level and distributing on a national level. It is on the lookout for people like Eastman, people who look promising, with promising products in the photography business. So I suppose you could say, from Eastman's point of view, it's a break. He's a young guy. He's just getting started in this stuff. It's a break for him to get a contract with Anthony.
Narrator: With the Anthony Company behind him, Eastman opened a dry plate factory in downtown Rochester in January of 1881. He was twenty-six years old. Instead of president, he chose to be treasurer of his company so he could keep a close eye on the ledgers.
Reese Jenkins: The treasurer was the person who handled the finances was in control of financial decisions and the actual carrying out of financial operations. And to him, that was the most important part of the company.
Narrator: Each morning at eight o'clock, Eastman rode his bicycle to his day job at the bank. At three o'clock, he hurried to his factory. He made all the emulsions himself, mixing and stirring late into the night. Every morning he returned to the bank, his fingers stained black from the chemicals. "I'm going to succeed," he vowed. Eastman was up for a promotion at the bank. When the job was given to a relative of one of the bank's directors, he was outraged and quit immediately.
Elizabeth Brayer: One of the bank officials commented when Eastman quit his job that, uh..."What a foolish thing to do, to pursue this will-of-a-wisp, when he had this wonderful career as a banker ahead of him."
Narrator: By now he had six employees and was selling four thousand dollars of dry plates every month. Professional photographers gladly abandoned their wet plates in favor of this new, easier method. But as the market increased for dry plates, so did the competition. Self-taught as a chemist, Eastman couldn't match the new, improved emulsions that other companies were now offering. He hired Henry Reichenbach, a science student at the University of Rochester.
George Eastman Reading: "We have a young chemist who devotes his time entirely to experiments and we hope he will strike the right emulsion sooner or later.... He knows nothing about photography, which [is] all the better."
Narrator: Eastman was already at work on a bold innovation to replace glass plates. He thought his idea would completely revolutionize photography.
Todd Gustavson, Photo Technology Curator: If you're using a camera out in the field and are carrying many dry plates -- glass plates -- with you, the plates become rather heavy. They're also rather fragile. They could break if you dropped them.
Narrator: Eastman created a lightweight, rollable film by coating paper with emulsion. This paper film fit into another invention -- a roll holder that attached to the back of a camera. Photographers would no longer have to take pictures one glass plate at a time. They could simply roll the film to the next frame. Eastman shared his youthful optimism with colleagues. "We'll be ready to scoop the world in the next few weeks," he boasted. He told his mother she would no longer have to take in boarders. In the spring of 1885, Eastman introduced his roll-holder at a London exhibit for new inventions. It won several awards.
Colin Harding, Photo Historian: Unfortunately, however, this enthusiasm didn't seem to communicate itself to photographers at large who, whilst they admired the roll holder, didn't actually go out there and buy it. So whilst it was a critical success, it was by no means a commercial success.
Reese Jenkins: The problem was, the film was inadequate, provided very, very weak, images that were not up to professional standards whatsoever. Professionals were well aware of the wonderful roll holder technology itself, but the film was the failure. And as a result, the roll holder was a failure.
Narrator: For George Eastman, this rejection by professional photographers was a stinging defeat.
Reese Jenkins: He had undoubtedly bragged to associates, particularly those in the business community in Rochester, who had seen him leave the bank and all of this. And his business had not really taken off as he had hoped that it would with the dry plates. And now he had the roll holder and all the promise of the roll holder, and the roll holder fails. And Eastman's in the position now: Is his whole venture going to fail?
Narrator: For a while, Eastman's company survived by providing photo finishing and selling paper to print photos. In 1887 Eastman took stock of what he had: a photo service that produced steady business but not enough for someone with his ambition; and a roll holder that was highly admired but rejected by professionals. Eastman started thinking: If ordinary people could take pictures, maybe they wouldn't be as fussy. He came up with a dramatic innovation -- a camera so simple that anyone could use it. Eastman hired a nearby cabinet maker to build a box for the camera's body. He had local machinists make a shutter that could take a picture in a fraction of a second. For the lens, he turned to a small Rochester optical shop run by German immigrants named Bausch and Lomb. Within a month, he had his camera. But would anyone buy it? In the summer of 1888, ads began to appear for a camera with an unusual name -- the Kodak. No one had ever seen anything like it.
Todd Gustavson: The Kodak camera basically had very few moving parts. Had a shutter. There was no focusing involved. There was a little string that would be lifted up to cock the shutter, a button to release the shutter, and a winding key on the top of the camera. The advertising phrase that went with the camera was, "You push the button, we do the rest." And basically that's pretty much how it worked.
Narrator: The Kodak had Eastman's roll holder built into it, loaded with enough paper film to take one hundred pictures. When the roll was done, the entire camera was shipped back to Rochester where the film was developed. Several weeks later, the pictures came back -- mounted on cards -- along with the Kodak, loaded with more film.
Colin Harding: So for the very first time, you didn't have to be a skilled photographer... and skilled in the darkroom to actually make your own photographs.
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: And I would imagine the first take of most people would be... "Come on! You can't do that." But then the pictures would come back. Someone on your block, you might say, did it. And you see the pictures, and you believe. It's an instant conversion as soon as you see the pictures, you say, "My goodness!"
Narrator: The Kodak was easy. Not just for the person behind the camera, but for those who posed in front of it. There was no complicated equipment or chemicals. Just a small black box held by someone they knew.
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: All of a sudden this little device means you could go into the back yard. You can take a picture of the baby splashing around in a mud puddle. You can go to a picnic or a ballgame. You can do it. And you know how hard this is, because you in your memory have seen professional photographers all over the place. The hiding of the professional chemistry involved in photography is a stroke of genius in terms of marketing.
Narrator: Another part of the camera's appeal was its name.
George Eastman Reading: "I devised the name myself. A trademark should be short, vigorous, incapable of being misspelled.... It must mean nothing. If the name has no dictionary definition, it must be associated only with your product...."
Nancy West, Cultural Critic: People know the name... They've heard the name. It's a peculiar name. Everyone's saying, "The Kodak? What is that?" You know. Uh, people are using Kodak as a verb, as an adjective... as something synonymous with photography itself.
Narrator: The pictures taken by the new camera also had an unusual name: "snapshots" -- a hunting term meaning to shoot a gun without aiming. In fact, the Kodak had no viewfinder and couldn't be aimed accurately. It looked so unlike large studio cameras that many people didn't realize their photographs were being taken.
Colin Harding: This was seen as a great threat to personal privacy. In particular, there was a thought that perhaps, certain people who became known as "camera fiends" or "photographic fiends" would hang around beach resorts and they would take photographs of women as they emerged from the waves with their costumes clinging to their bodies.
Narrator: Within a year of its introduction, Eastman had sold thirteen thousand Kodaks. His factory was developing more than six thousand photographs every day.
Reese Jenkins: Eastman was absolutely delighted with the success of the Kodak camera. As soon as the sales began to come in very early on, he was so impressed with it, he was just like a little kid, just tickled.
Narrator: George Eastman traveled to Europe to open new stores, showing off his Kodak at every opportunity. On one of his trips, he met an American couple living in London. George Dickman was an international businessman with a worldly style. His wife Josephine was a trained singer. Eastman found her charming. Eastman was at ease with the couple, even though he was quite awkward socially.
Reese Jenkins: He's a very aggressive planner, very aggressive in his whole approach to business. And yet on the social side, he seems very shy, seems, very easily intimidated by a social setting.
Narrator: The Dickmans became Eastman's closest and most trusted friends. They also offered a cultural education beyond anything he had known. They introduced him to the best of British society, dinners at private clubs, and evenings at the theater. They helped him buy art and antiques. Eastman soon named Dickman manager of his London operation. The company was expanding, but the market was limited. Despite the Kodak's popularity, few could afford it.
Todd Gustavson: One of the main disadvantages of the original Kodak is the fact that it was very expensive. It cost $25 in 1888, the equivalent of about three months' working wage for the average person. So it's really very, very expensive.
Colin Harding: It was aimed very much at those who went on long holidays, who traveled, people who wanted a record of their travels but didn't want to buy commercially available photographs. So the Kodak was aimed very much at the affluent middle class or the upper classes.
Narrator: One reason the Kodak was expensive was the complicated and time-consuming process needed to print each photo. Printing pictures through the paper backing produced grainy photos. To improve quality, the emulsion was stripped from the paper after developing and mounted on glass for printing. Eastman knew if he could replace the paper with something clear, it would eliminate this step. He and Reichenbach experimented with materials made from wax and moss, even seaweed. Nothing worked. Unknown to Eastman, a clergyman in Newark, New Jersey was already a step ahead. As early as 1886, the Reverend Hannibal Goodwin was experimenting with a type of plastic called celluloid. Goodwin's hobby troubled his congregation.
Carol Goodwin King, Great granddaughter: Hannibal Goodwin was quite a tinkerer, especially in areas of chemistry and photography. There was a strong sense of the dignity required of a priest of God. And it really seemed inappropriate to many of the parishioners, I guess, that he would have stains on his hand and even some acid marks on his clothing.
Narrator: Working in the rectory's attic, Goodwin made a transparent film of celluloid. He applied for a patent in 1887. By this time, Henry Reichenbach was experimenting with celluloid as well. After several months, he had a formula that worked. In 1889, two years after Goodwin, Eastman applied for his own patent. Reichenbach was more specific about ingredients, the Eastman Company was awarded a patent for transparent film. Goodwin challenged the decision while Eastman charged ahead. Convinced that transparent film would be a tremendous success, Eastman began building a large manufacturing plant on the outskirts of the city. He rewarded Reichenbach handsomely, giving him fifty shares of stock and putting him in charge of what would be called Kodak Park. But when the new factory couldn't produce film fast enough to meet demand, Eastman fumed.
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: The relationship of the boss of a large production facility, such as Eastman is beginning to build in Rochester, is often troubled. And perhaps one of the reasons is, the people who are running these big factories still like small shops. They're not comfortable with massive layers of hierarchy in a company.
Narrator: Eastman was not well-liked among employees. His office was near the women's bathroom. If they made too many trips, they felt his disapproving gaze. He expected the office boy to sharpen pencils in a particular way and instructed janitors on the proper way to use a broom. He rarely gave praise and was quick to criticize. When he found fault with a worker, he'd pull his coat back, put his hands in his hip pockets and, according to one employee, curse "a wide blue streak." Henry Reichenbach became a special target.
END OF ACT 2
Reese Jenkins: Reichenbach has a lot of responsibility. He's manager of Kodak Park, and he has responsibility for the emulsion. And he's got film batches that are going bad.
George Eastman Reading: "Why can you not supply this factory with emulsion?" "Neff reports to me that he has had no emulsion for two weeks..."
George Eastman Reading: "Have covers made at once for the...trays in the cold storage room."
George Eastman Reading: "There are a lot of [lights]...that are burning constantly that are not required."
George Eastman Reading: "Can't you get some emulsion running for Neff? Let me know tomorrow when he can have the emulsion."
Narrator: With four small children at home, Reichenbach had grown weary of the long hours and increasing demands. Late in 1891, he and several other Kodak chemists took steps to start their own competing business. Eastman fired them. His action would prove disastrous. Soon, angry customers were complaining that Kodak film was no good.
Colin Harding: And as the months went by, this problem built up, until Eastman had to make the decision to actually stop film production because problems were so great.
Narrator: Then, in 1893, an economic depression swept the world and Eastman's company went deeply into debt. Months passed and still no film was shipped. Employees saw their boss turn into a "nervous, ragged wreck." At the plant in England, things were no better. When a British bank threatened to foreclose on a loan, George Dickman wrote to his friend for money. But Eastman had none to give.
George Eastman Reading: "We shall have all that we can do to take care of our own finances. It is extremely unlikely that we will be able to lend you any money. I write this to you so that you will not count on it.... Yours truly, George Eastman, Treasurer."
Colin Harding: 1893 was probably the lowest point for the young company. They were in debt, severely in debt, and really, it was difficult to see a way out of this.
ACT 3 - "Why Wait?"
Narrator: After firing Reichenbach, Eastman hired a succession of emulsion makers. They all failed.
Elizabeth Brayer: The hiring and firings were amazing in those years, trying to find some way to get this emulsion down. He even joked that he was going to start a praying department. All the hands would gather around and pray over the emulsion.
Narrator: Late in 1893, Eastman hired William Stuber. He was not a chemist but an award-winning photographer who made his own dry plates. His emulsions were based on formulas he had learned in Europe. For several months, he worked in complete secrecy. Even Eastman was not allowed into the lab. In the spring of 1894, Stuber finally produced a quality emulsion. When the new Kodak film came out, it was so good even professional photographers began using it. it arrived just in time to help a new industry get started -- motion pictures. Within a few years, movie film became Eastman's biggest seller. His company was back on its feet. The world economy was also recovering from the depression.
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: You not only have investment money, but you have the mechanisms in place now--Wall Street, you might say--to manage investments. And it is not surprising that beginning around 1898, you have a wave of mergers, smart people using investment monies to put together larger business enterprises.
George Eastman Reading: "The manifest destiny of the Eastman Kodak Company is to be the largest manufacturer of photographic materials in the world, or go to pot."
Reese Jenkins: They have sold more Kodaks and made more money than they've ever made before. And now his conception, I think, really shifts to the point: "Okay, now what am I going to do with this?"
Narrator: In 1898, Eastman went to England to form an international company --Kodak, Limited. If he succeeded, he would have a world-wide monopoly. He and Dickman met with investors. "Everything is in good shape," Eastman wrote to his mother. "Unless something quite unfortunate occurs, it will be an enormous success." On the afternoon of November 9, Eastman was in his London office when George Dickman walked in with some papers for review. Suddenly Dickman doubled over with severe abdominal pain.
Colin Harding: There was no first aid room as such. And so the board room was cleared, and George Dickman was laid down, on the table. Eastman decided to send for an ambulance. And I think it's some indication here of the personal friendship between the two men that when the ambulance came, Eastman insisted on getting into the back of the ambulance with George Dickman and accompanying him on the way home to Hampstead. was not time to actually take him to hospital. So the surgeon came to Dickman's house, and the operation was performed up in his bedroom.
Elizabeth Brayer: Eastman was hovering over him, trying to do everything he could, and of course there was nothing he could do because he didn't have the knowledge, he didn't have the antibiotics.
Colin Harding: Dickman seemed to rally a bit and seemed to be on the mend. But six days later, he died.
Narrator: George Dickman died on the morning of November 15, 1898. Later that day, Kodak Limited was formed. Eastman collected more than nine hundred thousand dollars--he was now a millionaire.
Narrator: In the United States, the Eastman Kodak Company now dominated the industry. George Eastman used its power to buy out other companies, acquiring the technology to produce a cheaper version of the Kodak. In 1900, he released the Brownie, a camera almost everyone could afford.
Nancy West: The Brownie camera cost one dollar. That's roughly twenty dollars by today's standards. So it was drastically cheaper than the original Kodak camera. And it really-. That was the camera that really revolutionized or democratized photography.
Narrator: The Brownie was named after popular storybook characters. It was a shrewd move, aimed at selling the cheap camera to a new group of consumers--children.
Nancy West: One of the things I think that was clearly at work in Eastman's promotion of the Brownie camera was the idea that if he started children with a cheaper camera, they would work their way up to more expensive cameras later on, and they've become full grown, healthy Kodak junkies, [LAUGHS] buying one camera after another.
Narrator: One hundred and fifty thousand Brownies were made in 1900 --more cameras than Eastman had sold in the twelve years since he had introduced the Kodak. But the Eastman Kodak Company was facing a serious threat. The Patent Office had given Hannibal Goodwin a patent for celluloid film. Goodwin threatened to sue Eastman Kodak for infringement.
Reese Jenkins: Film was the most profitable item for the Eastman Kodak Company. So what this had the potential of doing was to make an enormous claim on all of the film that was produced by the Eastman Kodak Company during the life of that patent.
Narrator: When the patent dispute grew into a lawsuit, Eastman refused to settle. After a long legal battle, he lost. When he realized the judgment might be as high as twenty-five million dollars, Eastman was stunned. Drawing on his company's vast resources, he was able to negotiate the payment down to five million dollars. "Well, that's over," he said. "Now the one thing to do is forget it."
The company's profits soared. So did his personal fortune. He would soon be listed as the sixth wealthiest man in the nation. Eastman assumed a more conservative style. The trim, dapper entrepreneur in waistcoats and ascots became a paunchy businessman dressed in dark suits. In 1905, he and his mother moved into a thirty-seven-room mansion he helped design. It was surrounded by extensive gardens, orchards and livestock, maintained by a staff of forty.
Kathleen Connor: He very much wanted his house to be run like the business. And so there were flow charts, and it was very well structured and organized as who reported to who.
Narrator: Eastman made the gardeners count the roses on each vine to see which varieties produced better. He ordered monthly reports on the output of his cows and chickens. His housekeeper tracked household expenses with double entry ledgers and she was audited once a year by public accountants. Even the morning breakfast followed a careful ritual. Organist Harold Gleason arrived early to play music that pleased his prickly boss. At exactly 7:30, as Eastman opened his bedroom door, Gleason began to play. The organist would try to sense his boss's mood as he entered the room and adjust the music accordingly. The conservatory table was always set with a linen tablecloth and his silver tea service. Sometimes guests were invited to join him but increasingly over the years he ate alone.
In 1907, George Eastman's mother Maria died at the age of eighty-five.
Elizabeth Brayer: For the next week, when people would come by, he would start to carry on a normal conversation, and then suddenly he would turn away and walk to the window and start fiddling with the curtain or something. And then he'd turn around and say, "I'm all right now."
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: George Eastman is such an intriguing figure. Here is a man who understood intuitively, early on, very early on, that you could take a distant and formalized, high tech system -- photography-- and make it a place where people could be intimate, playful, warm, and where they could remember the fond memories of their life. And the man himself, increasingly as he lives longer, becomes less and less capable of intimacy.
Narrator: Though Eastman invited people to his home for concerts and dinner parties, he was an uncomfortable host who often disappeared long before his guests departed.
Josephine Dickman, who had moved to America, served as play cards hostess for many events, fueling speculation among staff that she and Eastman might marry. "She was the love of his life," said one. But Eastman remained a bachelor.
Narrator: In 1912, Eastman began to think about the legacy he would leave.
Reese Jenkins: Eastman Kodak is, in a sense, his child, and he's doing everything he can to bring that child to full maturity so that that child can live on after George Eastman.
Narrator: He established a research laboratory at Kodak Park to keep the company at the cutting edge of photography. He began giving away his personal fortune--ultimately amounting to one hundred million dollars. Some went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which was training many of his best scientists. To attract top talent to Rochester, he worked to overcome its provincial reputation. He built a theater, created a School of Music and gave large gifts to the University. In 1925 George Eastman, now seventy-one, officially retired from Kodak. He named as president William Stuber -- the man who had saved his company by fixing the emulsion. Eastman attacked retirement with the same obsessive energy he had given his company... orchestrating elaborate camping trips... and African safaris.
Kathleen Connor: Every meal was planned out. Every kind of activity that they were going to do was planned out, so that he would have enough of the guns, the ammunition, the clothing, the various equipment that they would need to do the fishing and the hunting of different animals.
Narrator: He invited friends to join him. But, over time, fewer accepted. They found little pleasure traveling with a man who never stopped being the boss. On one of these trips in 1928, Eastman was noticeably thinner and weaker. Soon, he had difficulty standing. His stride became slow and shuffling.
Elizabeth Brayer: Medical experts today say that probably he would have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He knew he was headed to a wheelchair existence. It also would have made him incontinent, which was a very difficult thing for a man of his meticulous habits.
Kathleen Connor: He was very much afraid of mentally deteriorating and not being able to recognize friends and family, be able to converse, to not be in control of his own life to the very end.
Narrator: The pain became so great that Eastman rarely left his bedroom. He confessed to a friend, "There isn't much to live for. All that most people come here for is to have me sign on the dotted line." On March 14, 1932, Eastman invited a few friends over to witness a change in his will. He seemed glad for the company. A little past noon, he asked everyone to leave, saying he had a note to write. Moments later, the household staff heard a gunshot. Lying in bed, Eastman had fired a single bullet from an automatic pistol into his heart. He was seventy-seven. On a nearby table, he left a note: "To my friends, My work is done. Why wait?"
Thousands gathered to mourn George Eastman. He had given many of them successful careers. He had improved their city. But for people in all parts of the world he had created something far more important.
John Staudenmaier, S.J.: The idea that you could capture warm, simple, and tender moments in your own life, and save them, so that you could remember them by looking at them, that's a radical idea of the time.
Colin Harding: He was definitely a businessman first and foremost. But quite clearly, he did introduce this element whereby we can all record our lives, capture our memories, happy memories, and lay down something for future generations. That must be Eastman's legacy.