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Arts & Crafts:
From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright

by Arnold Schwartzman

The author focuses on a British craftsmen, such as William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who turned their backs on the mass production of the Industrial Revolution to form a ‘Round Table’ in order to establish a means of returning to hand-crafted products.

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Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

George Eastman's Camera for the People
by Bob Brooke


In 1888, George Eastman invented a dry, transparent, flexible photographic film that came in a roll. He created it for use in his newly designed, user-friendly Kodak camera. This innovative camera and film combination enabled the average person to take pictures easily with amazing results.

Eastman purchased his first photographic kit in 1877. It used wet plates, included a cumbersome darkroom tent and cost him what amounted to a month’s wages. The wet plates had to be coated with collodion and then sensitized with nitrates of silver just prior to exposure otherwise it quickly lost sensitivity. Eastman described the camera as being “about the size of soapbox” and its tripod as “heavy enough to support a bungalow.” He felt there had to be a better way.

He began exploring the possibilities of dry plate technology which was then brand new and still quite experimental.

Eastman’s Improvements to Dry Plate Technology
Using the sink in his mother’s kitchen, Eastman worked on his own formulation until he came up with one that worked to his satisfaction, both in terms of ease of production and economy. He was so happy with it, he decided to begin production and, in the process, invented a mechanical coating machine to ensure a more precise process than doing it by hand. He quickly applied for patents for both the machine and his dry plate formulation in the United States and Britain.

Meanwhile, he bought the patent rights to 21 inventions related to photographic cameras issued to David Henderson Houston for $5,750. Houston had immigrated to America in 1841 from Glasgow, Scotland. He filed his first patent in 1881 for a camera that used a roll of film—which hadn’t been invented yet. Houston also licensed patents for folding, panoramic, and magazine-loaded cameras to Kodak.

In 1880, using both his own money and that of an investor, Henry Strong, George Eastman started a business called the Eastman Dry Plate Company, operating in one room above a music shop in Rochester. His dry plates quickly gained a reputation for their quality, but already he was thinking ahead and considering ways to make photography much more attractive to ordinary people.

Dry plates made things easier, but photography was still a complex and costly procedure that required some expertise and dedication. Eastman wanted a system that would not only be easier, but allow for large-scale production using less expensive materials in order to make the products more affordable. He began experimenting with coating a light-sensitive gelatin based emulsion onto a paper backing and, after a lot of trial and error, eventually came up with a workable design.

Consequently, in 1885, he changed his business’ name to the Eastman Dry Plate & Film Company. At around the same time, George teamed up with a camera maker called William Walker who had already designed and built a small wooden box camera that could be handheld and, even better, lent itself to volume production. The pair then devised a holder that would accommodate Eastman’s paper negative roll film and fit into Walker’s camera.

As seems to have happened with every major development in the history of photography, the roll film camera met with some resistance despite the obvious conveniences. As far as established photographers believed the paper negatives were inferior in quality to glass plates (graininess was a major issue) and their opinions were influential in what was then a very small community worldwide.

Aware of the problem, he devised a new triple-layer negative that he called ‘American Film’ and, while it solved the grain issue, it was much more complicated to develop, which limited its appeal to would-be amateur photographers. Nevertheless, this didn’t deter George from going ahead and establishing a production facility to coat long rolls of paper. He was also working on a more compact roll film camera, but he also knew he still hadn’t achieved the goal of devising a photography system that would have the appeal necessary to create a market large enough to generate the economies of scale needed for a profitable business. But he was edging closer and closer.

Eastman’s Revolutionary Camera
Eastman’s camera came pre-loaded with his triple-layer “American Film,” enough for 100 exposures, for the purchase price of $25. It could easily be carried and handheld during its operation. "You press the button, we do the rest," Eastman promised in the advertising slogan for his revolutionary invention.

After the user exposed the 100 shots on the roll of film, he or she would return the whole camera to the Kodak company in Rochester, New York, where workers developed the film, made prints, and inserted a new roll of film into the camera, before returning the camera to its owner. The customer then repeated the cycle.

A Camera by Any Other Name Would Not be a Kodak
George Eastman believed a trademark should be short, unique, and incapable of being misspelled. He always liked the letter 'K' because it seemed to be one that was strong and stood out from the rest of the alphabet.. So he set about trying out a number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with "K."

However, about the time Eastman was doing this, inventor David H. Houston was living in the town of Nodak, North Dakota, and the two men frequently communicated. The Kodak/Nodak connection came at about the same time Eastman bought his first patent from Houston.

Eastman’s camera gave birth to snapshot photography and for decades it would be synonymous with the name Kodak.

The most enduring legacy of George Eastman’s remarkable life’s work was the popularizing of photography, making the medium available to people who didn’t consider themselves photographers, but who nevertheless still wanted to record the important events and occasions that happened throughout their lives. The “Kodak Moments,” coined in advertising, came to symbolize a moment in time that was something special.

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