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George Eastman Hardcover – October 31, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The innovative founder of the Eastman Kodak Company was not generally known for his thirst for adventure, his love of art and classical music, or his philanthropic activities, yet these were all important aspects of the man. George Eastman (1854-1932) was a complicated individual who lived most of his long, industrious life out of the public eye; his private affairs both admirable and dubious are now out in the open, thanks to this scholarly and scrupulous biography. Eastman is revealed as cold, shrewd, modest, and surprisingly generous in this colorful portrait. The text is appropriately enhanced by a number of rare photographs. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1904, when the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet, he took his Kodak camera. Worldwide, people understood. The cultural revolution begun in 1888 when George Eastman (1854-1932) made photography accessible to anyone with $25 had been completed in 1900, when his Brownie made picture-taking possible for anyone with a dollar (and 15? for film). Brayer, a historian at the Eastman-endowed International Museum of Photography and Film, has written a candid, fact-crammed life of the first camera-and-film tycoon that loses somewhat in liveliness by leaving out almost nothing about how the camera business was dominated for years by Eastman's canny and baronial practices. A bank clerk as a young man, he was astute enough by his late 20s to weather financial difficulties and manufacture cheap, workable film while withstanding what would become decades of litigation, much of which he won, over patent infringement and antitrust charges. In the end the mother's boy who could never cut the silver cord and marry was wedded to an enterprise that made him, in wealth, a peer of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford. Catchphrases advertising his cameras ("You Press the Button, We Do the Rest") sold billions of feet of film and threatened to make "Kodak" a common noun for "camera." He resisted with challenges over trademark and with the maxim "If it isn't an Eastman it isn't a Kodak." His relentless social Darwinism would pay off in consolidations, mergers and buyouts that left him with so many dollars (and no heirs) that only massive educational and cultural philanthropies could reduce the accumulation. "Mr. Eastman," one associate concluded, "was the only man I ever knew who started out a conservative and wound up a liberal." Brayer's biography of the boy fired up by "Oliver Optic" stories such as Work and Win and A Millionaire at Sixteen captures the expansive if callous period in American business in which such fortunes were made. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 702 pages
  • Publisher: University of Rochester Press; annotated edition edition (October 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580462472
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580462471
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #934,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
George Eastman was one of the seminal figures in the development of photography. Eastman was the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. Brayer's scholarly biography is long and definitive.
Eastman was perhaps the first scientist-engineer entrepreneur, a model followed later by men like Edwin Land and Bill Gates. Brayer skillfully weaves his engineering feats with his financier skills into a highly readable biography. Eastman was like Gates and Land, a hands-on entrepreneur. Stories abound about Eastman's midnight haunts through his factory, showing up in the wee hours unannounced to some startled employee working late on a project.
I was constantly amazed at Eastman's ingenuity. Eastman the inventory of flexible film, made his first commercial batches by spreading the celluloid out on level 100-foot long glass topped tables. It wasn't until many years later they finally found a way to machine make it.
For my taste there was far too much information on the architecture and building of Eastman House. Since Brayer, as I understand it, was or maybe still is, an employee of Eastman House, now a foundation supported museum of photography, this is understandable. I did find it amusing that Eastman used Belgian imported glass plates that were to be used in the factory as a film base as window glass in the House. Window glass will have an occassional ripple or bubble, but not these. George always had to have the very best.
Brayer has shed some new light on several of the patent infringement lawsuits that went against Eastman.
In many biographies, the subject is just that, a subject. Brayer does an exceptional job of bringing Eastman to life. If you have an interest in photographic history or in financial history, this is an exceptional book. This is the first freely written biography of Eastman. Earlier attempts were quite controlled by the Trust and Eastman himself.
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent review of Mr. Eastman as a person, businessman, and technology innovator. I have have done research on Kodak and Mr. Eastman. This book is interesting and accurate. The extensive annotation confirms the accuracy of the work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before I begin on the review of the book's content, I will begin with the quality of the actual book / binding.

The pages are of a higher-quality, smoother paper, which give the book of a more distinguished feel. While the dust-cover image and text is rather unremarkable, which, I might add, is rather expected of this kind of book, the actual volume has the simple crimson and black with gold lettering on the side. The text is small, but not too small, or the lines too close together, that it is difficult to read. Finally, I do not know if this is typical, but my copy came with a signature from the author.

Now for the book's contents:

I found the book very enjoyable and well-written. While the style isn't that of a Hollywood thriller, it does what it sets out to do, to tell the story of George Eastman, and it does it well. It is very informative, the level of detail went well beyond my expectations, and, most importantly, the extensive list of cited sources lets me know that the information is accurate. All in all, if you are looking for the story of GE, this is the copy to buy.

Overall, 5/5 stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most comprehensive published biography on George Eastman, with an excellent index and footnotes. The author's access to primary sources makes this an essential reference for anyone researching Eastman, photography, business history, or the history of technology.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written and detailed view of the life of George Eastman, and seems very well researched and balanced. It is chock full of not only well-known information, but less obvious details in the life of this interesting and unique person! While it isn't a "can't put it down" thriller, it none the less captures my attention every time I pick it up. Haven't finished it yet, but I'm still fascinated by the author's detailed and "no holds barred" factual approach!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
after visiting the Eastman home in Rochester, New York we wanted to learn more. Although I have not yet read it my friend just finished it and said it was very intriguing but kind of a hard read as the writing is of old English style. Nonetheless he very much enjoyed it.
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