University of Rochester Library Bulletin: George Eastman, A Bibliographical Essay of Selected References

Volume XXVII · Number 1 · Winter 1971-1972
George Eastman: A Bibliographical Essay of Selected References
Assistant Librarian, Department of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Archives

George Eastman, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist, left a lasting impact upon Rochester -- the city in which he spent his life -- and upon education, public health, and industry. The stories of his inventions and of his business success, of his friends and acquaintances and of the kind of person they found him, of his philanthropies and interests and the motives that promoted them, are unfolded in the writings about Eastman. Though still not an excessively long list, the insights that these books and articles give will hopefully interest the many readers of the Library Bulletin who responded so favorably to the Spring 1971 "all-Eastman" issue.

Summary biographical information on Eastman appears in Who Was Who in America1897-1942 and in articles in encyclopedias such as the Americana and the Britannica. Longer sketches are found in the Dictionary of American Biography (New York, Scribner's, 1944, vol. 21, p. 274-276) and The National Cyclopedia of American Biography(New York, James T. White & Co., 1937, vol. 26, p. 32-33).

Contemporary newspapers, including the New York Times and Rochester newspapers, provide biographical coverage. For example, the New York Times Index for 1930 has references to such articles as "Employees present him with gold cigarette chest in commemoration of 50th anniversary of founding of company," "Leaves for Alaska," and "Donates $1,000,000 for child dental clinic in Paris." Unfortunately, there is no index to Rochester newspapers of this period, though Eastman is no stranger to these papers, as any patient reader will discover. An unusually early and the first authorized account, "George Eastman, the Man Behind the Kodak," was published as a full-page, seven-column feature in the New York Sun (November 3, 1912, p. 5). Newspaper coverage was extensive at the time of George Eastman's death in March 1932. The New York Times had a front page story in its March 15 issue, several articles on page 14, and an editorial on page 20, with other articles appearing for the next several days. Exhaustive coverage, of course, was given in Rochester newspapers for weeks. The Democrat and Chronicle and the New York Times reported in depth the details of Eastman's controversial will in April 5 editions.

The lengthy and popular Democrat and Chronicle sketch of Eastman (March 15, 1932, p. 2 and 4) was also published as a pamphlet by the Eastman Kodak Company's Public Relations Department and was distributed gratis for years. Among the best contemporary magazine articles are Terry Ramsaye's "Little Journeys to the Homes of Famous Film Magnates: George Eastman" in Photoplay (July 1927, p. 46-47 and 109-115), and for associative value, Thomas A. Edison's comments in Chemical Markets(August 1930, insert following p. 144).

The only biography, Carl W. Ackerman's George Eastman (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1930) chronicles the development of the Eastman Kodak Company, but reveals little, other than selected and strictly factual material, of Eastman himself. Published during Eastman's life, it needs to be supplemented by a more probing analysis of the Kodak founder and his impact and influence. Eastman's life has also been portrayed in fiction in Henry Clune's By His Own Hand (New York, Macmillan, 1952), but more factual anecdotes and recollections are contained in the veteran Rochester reporter's Main Street Beat (New York, Norton, 1947). Eastman is an important character in Paul Horgan's Fault of Angels (New York, Harper, 1933), a novel of Rochester musical life in the 1920's, in part later retold using real names in "How Dr. Faustus Came to Rochester," in Harpers (April 1936, p. 506-515). Children's books include Joanne L. Henry's George Eastman, Young Photographer (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1959) and Kazuhiko Fukuda's Eastman, Kindai Shashin no Chichi (Tokyo, Twasaki, 1958).

Of special merit concerning Eastman as a pioneer in photography for the masses are "The Photographic Inventions of George Eastman," an illustrated article by Beaumont Newhall, the knowledgeable former curator of the Eastman House, in The Journal of Photographic Science (March-April 1955, p. 33-40); Oscar N. Solbert's "George Eastman, Amateur," in Image (November 1953, p. 49-56), also reprinted as a pamphlet by Eastman Kodak Company's Corporate Information Department, and "George Eastman and His Place in the History of Photography," in the PSA Journal (December 1950, p. 711-714), by the director of Kodak's Research Laboratory, Dr. C. E. Kenneth Mees. In The National Geographic Magazine (September 1954, p. 423-438) Allan C. Fisher, Jr.'s, "Eastman of Rochester: Photographic Pioneer," concentrates on the history of photography, noting that "the year 1888 saw both the advent of the Kodak camera and the birth of the National Geographic Society." It is not afield to mention here the original, lengthy, and marvelous period piece that discussed the Kodak:  "Instantaneous Photography," in Scientific American (September 15, 1888, p. 159 and 164).

Eastman's impact on Rochester can be traced in three volumes of Blake McKelvey's history of Rochester: Rochester, the Flower City, 1855-1890 (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1949), Rochester, the Quest for Quality, 1890-1925 (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1956), and Rochester: An Emerging Metropolis, 1925-1961(Rochester, Christopher Press, 1961). Of value for the elusive details they provide are the scores of short references to Eastman in the magazine Rochester History (1939-to date, 33 vols.; mimeographed index published for v. 1-24), and the Rochester Historical Society's Publication Fund Series (1922-1948, 24 vols.; cumulated index in v. 15). A rather unusual and personal view of Eastman and Rochester appears in artist-architect-philosopher Claude Bragdon's More Lives Than One (New York, Knopf, 1938, chapter IX, p. 76-81, and passim).

Eastman's philanthropies, so tied to the city of Rochester, are discussed in Blake McKelvey's "George Eastman, Community Benefactor, the Story of His Many Gifts to Rochester Causes and Institutions," in Rochester Commerce (July 1954, p. 14 and if.) Further information by those connected with one of his philanthropies, the University of Rochester's School of Medicine and Dentistry, is found in Abraham Flexner: An Autobiography (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1960, p. 180-185) and in George W. Corner's George Hoyt Whipple and His Friends (Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1963, especially p. 122-126 and 172174). Eastman's friendship with President Rush Rhees, out of which grew the gifts to the University of Rochester, is discussed in John Rothwell Slater's Rhees of Rochester (New York, Harper, 1946, p. 156-177), and in a different vein, with much statistical information, in Arthur J. May's "George Eastman and the University of Rochester:  His Role, His Influence," in the University of RochesterLibrary Bulletin (Spring 1971, p. 141-159).

As Eastman gradually withdrew from his business enterprises, he was able to devote more of his time to traveling, camping and hunting. His enjoyment of these pastimes is recalled photographically in Dr. George Hoyt Whipple's George Eastman, a Picture Story of an Out-of-Doors Man -- Camping, Fishing, Hunting (Rochester, 1957). Eastman's own account of his 1926 African hunting trip was privately printed in 1927 as Chronicles of an African Trip. Francis S. Macomber's "Hunting Trips with 'G.E.'," in the Genesee Country Scrapbook (1954, p. 22-28), was also published in an altered form as "A Different Sort of World," in the University of Rochester Library Bulletin(Spring 1971, p. 89-94). "Eastman a Good Man for Camping Companion," in Rochester Commerce (July 1964, p. 25 and 73), is an intimate portrait by his personal physician, Dr. Audley D. Stewart.

In the 1920's Eastman became interested in calendar reform and especially the thirteen-month year espoused by Moses B. Cotsworth. Over his signature as chairman of the National Committee on Calendar Simplification and as a corporation executive who placed his company's internal operations on the more efficient plan, several articles and booklets appeared, including "Problems of Calendar Improvement," in Scientific American (June 1931, p. 382-385), "The Importance of Calendar Reform to the Business World," in Nation's Business (May 1926, p. 42-46), which was also reprinted as a pamphlet, and the booklet "Do We Need Calendar Reform?" (Rochester?, 1927).

The centennial of his birth in 1954 occasioned numerous articles about Eastman. The best is Roger Butterfield's illustrated account, "The Prodigious Life of George Eastman," published in Life (April 26, 1954, p. 154-168), and reprinted in the Rochester Times-Union (May 3-7, 1954).

Rochester Commerce (July 1954) was "dedicated to the memory of George Eastman, Rochester inventor, industrialist, community benefactor and good neighbor." Articles included an editorial by Frank E. Gannett, an article on the Eastman centennial by Ernest A. Paviour, a general article on Eastman by Thomas F. Robertson, Lee McCanne's article on Eastman's advocacy of calendar reform, Dr. Albert D. Kaiser's reflections on "The George Eastman I Knew," Arthur P. Kelly's "George Eastman, Rochester's Good Neighbor, Good Friend, Good Citizen," and the aforementioned articles by McKelvey and Stewart.

Similarly, the Rochester Historical Society's Genesee Country Scrapbook for 1954 was an Eastman centennial issue, and included the first publication of some Eastman letters written during his boyhood and on his first trip abroad, and personal reminiscences of George Eastman by such close friends and associates as the Rev. George E. Norton, John R. Slater, Frank Gannett, Caroline Werner Gannett, and Francis S. Macomber in the already cited article. The University of Rochester published Roger Butterfield's "George Eastman's Vision of University" and reminiscences by Ernest Paviour and Howard Hanson in its Rochester Review (September 1954, p. 10-13 and 26-30).

The University of Rochester Library Bulletin has printed several articles by friends and acquaintances of Eastman. They include, "'Key' to the Eastman Scrapbook," by Mrs. George Hoyt Whipple (Fall 1965, p. 4-18), "My Friend George Eastman," by George E. Norton (Fall 1967, p. 3-13), and the special Spring 1971 Eastman issue featuring articles by Roger Butterfield, the Hon. Marion Folsom, Howard Hanson, Marion Gleason, Harold Gleason, Enid Knapp Botsford and George W. Goddard, as well as the two previously mentioned articles by Macomber and May, and a collection of Eastman letters to Dr. and Mrs. George Hoyt Whipple.


NOTE: Elizabeth Brayer's George Eastman: a biography was published in 1996.  

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