life of george eastman

Essay by rmortimeCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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"George Eastman"

George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company, made photography accessible to millions of people by mass manufacturing easy-to-use cameras and photographic products. Eastman innovations like cellulose roll film; the daylight-loading camera; and the Brownie, the worlds first snapshot camera made photography the 20th century's dominant art for and communication medium.

A dedicated philanthropist, Eastman gave much of his fortune to establish hospitals, clinics, universities, museums, and performing arts centers. He created the first profit sharing plan, and provided employees with health and retirement benefits in an era when such policies were rare. Sadly, the man who presided over one of the most influential industries in the world committed suicide in 1932.

George Eastman was born on July 12, 1854 in Waterville, a rural community in upstate New York. In 1859 his father, George Sr., sold his nursery business and moved his wife Maria, and young George to Rochester.

Here, George Sr. established the Eastman Commercial College. He struggled for nearly a decade to launch the institution, but it was to no avail. He died quite suddenly and the foundering college collapsed. George Jr., then 14, and his mother were nearly destitute.

George left school to work fulltime. He earned $3.00 a week as a messenger boy for an insurance company. Eager to advance, he learned to write and file policies. His tenacity was rewarded wit ha raise to $5.00 a week. The paltry sum barely covered expenses for him and his mother, but George was determined to succeed. Each night, after long days at the office, he studied accounting. These difficult years instilled a rigorous work ethic in Eastman. Yet he also gained a profound empathy for the poor. Throughout his lifetime he labored to ease the burdens of the disadvantaged.

At 19, his years of self-education paid...