Volume XXVI · Spring 1971 · Number 3
"Ever Yours, GE": George Eastman's Letters to Dr. and Mrs. George Hoyt Whipple
EDITED BY ROWLAND L. COLLINS, Professor of English, University of Rochester
In 1965, Dr. and Mrs. George H. Whipple presented the University of Rochester Library with nine autograph letters of George Eastman. All of these letters were written to the Whipples during the mid-1920's and they contribute notably to our knowledge of Mr. Eastman's character.
Several of Mr. Eastman's friends have written of his difficult personality, but each usually manages to emphasize an aspect of his character which was attractive, even though unnoticed by many. One group of friends who were unusually close to the great businessman and philanthropist were four young Rochester matrons: Marion Gleason (Mrs. Harold), Nan Bayne-Jones (Mrs. Stanhope), Mary Folsom (Mrs. Marion), and Katharine Whipple (Mrs. George). These ladies, all in their early thirties in the 1920's, had lunch with Mr. Eastman regularly on Saturdays and came to have an unusually close relationship with him. They were rather like an extra set of nieces; they were young, happily married, and informal; three (all but Mrs. Gleason) were immigrants from the South; three (all but Mrs. Bayne-Jones) had small children. Yet these ladies were thoroughly independent and did not have the natural anxieties and complex emotional ties of actual relatives; consequently, their jolly and easy friendship with Mr. Eastman was clearly one of the special joys of his life.*
The nine numbered letters published here fall into four groups. The first group (I.-IV.) consists of four letters which were written in July and August, 1923; the first two of these, written from his East Avenue home, deal with a forthcoming trip to Alaska; the second two were written while travelling. The second group is a single note (V.) written in May, 1924, from his retreat in North Carolina. Later that same summer, the Whipples accompanied Mr. Eastman on a trip to the Northwest similar to the expedition of 1923. Consequently, the third group of letters (VI. and VII.), written during a return to Alaska in the summer of 1925, refer to their joint trip the year before. The final group (VIII. and IX.) were written during a lengthy journey to England and Africa in the spring of 1926.
Mr. Eastman wrote regularly to each of his niece-like young friends. He addressed each as "Dearest" and these nine letters to Mrs. Whipple show no exception; each is addressed, in good avuncular fashion, with "Dearest Katharine." These letters show George Eastman at ease among close friends. His expression is thoroughly informal; he is playful with language and easily jesting with Mrs. Whipple; he is not hesitant to discuss the trivial nor embarrassed to reveal prejudice; he is sentimental and open; and, especially in the last letter, he is not ashamed to try the diction of poetic romance. The series gives a remarkable glimpse into touching and attractive characteristics of a towering and enigmatic figure.
[Stationery: 900 East Avenue.]
You are an angel from heaven to write me three letters. Youall have got into my heart somehow and I miss you something ridiculous. Whether it is your southern ways or your yankee ways or your southern-yankee ways or your yankee-southern1 ways I wont attempt to say but when you aint here I aint all here also. It was a mean Irish trick to go away so early and I hope the yankee goblins are getting you The three letters were godsends but one a day would be too few.
Tell GH that I appreciated his sending me the pictures I like to know where you are living.
As to the Alaska trip we leave here Sun. Aug 5-10 pm lv Chi.Aug 6 9.45 pm arr Vancouver Fri Aug 10. 7 30 am Lv Sat 9 00 pm arr Skagway Wed 15 Address Canadian Pacific Genl Passr Agt Ret to Skag Oct 3 Lv Vanc Oct 7 7.45 pm. Roch Thur Oct 11 11.40 p.m.
Please write me at Skag & Vanc care Agt Can Pac on my return trip and as many letters as you can before I leave.
Of course I have not forgotten about the verse you wrote that day of the luncheon. And now those birthday verses were serious and were true-and understanding.2
I wish you could fly over here to lunch with me tomorrow. There is a lot of things I would like to talk with you about.
Rosing3 made a hit at the recital. I have seen him in action with his class and I believe he will put his scheme over.
Affectionately Yr friend GE
[Stationery: 900 East Avenue.]
5pm Aug 5/23
Just to say goodbye. Your letter was more than welcome, I shall follow your directions about the powders.4
If you will remind me when I next see you I will tell you how I looked at the world when I was young5
It looks quite different now
[Stationery: Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia.]
This is 5 30 pm and we are all set to get away in the Princess Louise at 9 pm our party of four have about 70 pc luggage & camp stuff and the 3 guides must have about 15 more, so it takes some looking after.
The only objection I know to going is that it is further from those we love best.
[Stationery: White Pass & Yukon Route, Atlin Inn, Atlin, B.C.]
This is our jumping off place. Our camp equipment and horses left yesterday and we follow in a motor car after lunch to join them at our first camp 29 miles out. It will take about 10 days travel to reach the hunting grounds.
We have had a most agreeable trip so far.
It would have been a lot more fun if you could have been along to discuss the funny trippers that we have met. Most of them as common as dirt. A smooth fat Jew, a big Alsatian with his overshadowed wife & overgrown son. And what George Dryden6 calls a Shanty Irishman doctor and his pushin roly poly wife, are among the funniest
I am writing this looking out on the scene at the head of this letter.7 It is a beautiful sunny day with a temperature about 65° or 70°. We have not had a single hot day since we left Chicago
The outstanding thing so far (outside of the scenery) has been the red raspberries at Skagway. The biggest & nicest berries I have ever seen. We had them 4 meals straight.
Yesterday we motored out to a placer mining district and saw some small mines worked by hand and one big hydraulic mine where they had five streams tearing down the gravel bank.
Most of the mining around here however is pretty well played out and the little town is dead as a door nail except for the tourists. This being the terminus of travel. By the time this reaches you we will probably be in the midst of our hunting. But you will not have faded from my memory in any respect
Ever Yours GE
[Stationery: Oak Lodge, Enfield, N. C., Route 2, Box 11.]
The little pink Dogwood was in full bloom when we arrived. It is a beauty.
Your note received today was quite refreshing. I could stand another before we leave.
Its a shame GH has got another cold tell him one of the greatest diagnosticians says there is probably something the matter with his teeth or tonsils At this distance I can't tell which
The weather has been surprisingly cool. Two days heavy rain. The creek is running bank full
[Stationery: Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia.]
Its just about a year since we were here at this delightful hotel together. We had quite a close call in getting in last evening We broke a spring on the Studebaker which delayed us and when we arrived at eight oclock the manager said he had let our rooms go. After some talk he said the only thing he could do was to send us to a smaller hotel Soon after we got there (it was a stuffy folding bed place) he telephoned us he had had some rooms released. So we came back and found ourselves very well accommodated. We got our baths and finished dinner at 10.30
I am going to telephone Mrs Buchart8 now and see if they are at home
We shall run out there and then go on and stay at Bellingham9 tonight. We just have time to get to Mt Tacoma & back to Van by Friday Night. We sail for Wrangell Saturday evening at 9 oclock. I hope you will write me a nice long letter to be at Wrangell October first
Regards to GH. And much love to you
Friday Aug 14th/25
We arrived here yesterday right after luncheon, a day or so sooner than we expected because we did not have to wait at Wrangell for the river boat. The trip up the river took from 3 pm one day to 1 pm the 2d day (46 hours) and was perfectly glorious. The sun shone most of the time & the weather was warm & lovely. The scenery is much grander than along the coast. We saw a number of bear. Once, when we were near shore and the bank was very steep we came on a big one near the water as we rounded a bend. Every body set up a yell & the captain rang the bell The bear was badly scared and tried to scramble up the bank which was bare and soft dirt. He could barely make it and the way he made the dirt fly was very laughable.
We came a week before the rest of the hunters so we have the town pretty much to ourselves.
Everything is being got ready for a start tomorrow after lunch. They are going to swim the horses across the big swift river now and I am going out to get some motion pictures of them which I hope will turn out good enough for you to see when we get home.
We had a nice weeks motor trip to Mount Ranier & back. Did not have time to look up any of our last years acquaintances They have a brand new hotel at Tacoma and another (very big & swell) at Seattle. There was lots of smoke at Vancouver & south of there but we got a good look at Ranier in the early morning from Paradise Inn. We went out to the gardens & saw the Butcharts. Mr. B is very poorly. Had a bad time with asthma & had been in the hospital.
Rec'd your & GHs wire just before we came north Give him my best. Wasn't that a lovely picture of Dorothy 11 saying goodby to me at the Station
[Stationery: The Berkeley Hotel, Piccadilly, W. 1.]
We arrived at this hotel at 9 oclock last (Friday) afternoon after a very comfortable and enjoyable voyage The weather was tempestuous most of the way but the Olympic is so big that it really did not affect her much There was plenty of music and lots of books to read so the time passed rather quickly
I have tried hard to forget you but so far it has been a dismal failure If I don't succeed soon I shall give up trying.
This is a very nice typical English hotel picked out by Pomeroy.12 For a good many years I have put up at the big hotels mostly frequented by Americans. Tomorrow we are going down to Winchester to lunch with the Mattisons 13 and they are going to motor us thru the Black Forest.
With much love to you & regards to GH.
[Stationery: Union-Castle Line S.S "Llanstephan Castle."]
Approaching Aden Apr 22/26
Its no use, I can't forget you so I am not going to bother my head about it any more.
You can flit into and out of my mind just as the Seaswallow sail over the level sea into and out of view Of course if I don't get a letter from you once in a while your image will naturally dim until you become a mere dream.
This has been a mighty nice voyage so far as things go but I hate to think we have got to have about eight more days of it.
NOTES TO GEORGE EASTMAN-WHIPPLE LETTERS
- GE refers to Dr. Whipple being a native of New Hampshire, and Mrs. Whipple, a native of South Carolina.
- The "birthday verses," written by KW in honor of GE, do not survive; KW recalls them as a series of nonsense poems, one for each week of the year; GE was addressed as "the golden pheasant."
- Vladimir Rosing was a member of the Opera Department faculty at the Eastman School of Music from 1923-1928.
- KW recalls the "powders" as a reference to nonsense verses based on variations of Valentine Blacker's classic advice, "Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry."
- KW recalls that GE spoke with the Whipples about his youth quite often; there were many stories of his mother, but few of his father; curiously, he never mentioned his sisters.
- George Dryden is the husband of GE's niece Ellen.
- GE refers to scene of Cathedral Mountain Reflection-Atlin Lake.
- . Mrs. Buchart (correctly spelled Butchart in VII.) and her husband developed and maintained a spectacular garden outside Victoria which they opened to the public.
- The route is south to Bellingham, a coastal town in the northernmost county of Washington, then back north to Vancouver before the return to Alaska; Wrangell is on the coast north of Ketchikan and south of Juneau. Additional information about this tour can be found in the reminiscences of George Eliot Norton, rector of St. Paul's Church, Rochester, from 1923-1948, who, with Mrs. Norton, accompanied Mr. Eastman on this western excursion. See University of Rochester Library Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Fall, 1967), 5-6.
- Telegraph Creek, in northwest British Columbia, is reached from Wrangell, Alaska, by way of the Stikine River.
- "Dorothy" is an error for "Barbara," the name of the Whipples' only daughter whose picture was taken as GE left Rochester by train for the West.
- Daniel E. Pomeroy was associated with GE in furnishing the African rooms in the Museum of Natural History in New York; he planned GE's African trip and accompanied him.
- F. C. Mattison was the assistant manager of Kodak, Ltd., the British subsidiary.
*Mrs. Whipple has described this delightful social group in her charming "Key To the Eastman Scrapbook," University of Rochester Library Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Fall, 1965), 4-18.