The History of Kodak

In 1888, inventor George Eastman invented dry, transparent and flexible photographic film (or rolled photography film) as well as the Kodak cameras that could use the new film.

George Eastman and the Kodak Camera

George Eastman's Kodak Camera.

Eastman was an avid photographer and became the founder of the Eastman Kodak company. "You press the button, we do the rest" promised Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera.

Eastman wanted to simplify photography and make it available to everyone, not just trained photographers. So in 1883, Eastman announced the invention of photographic film in rolls. Kodak the company was born in 1888 when the first Kodak camera entered the market. Pre-loaded with enough film for 100 exposures, the Kodak camera could easily be carried and handheld during its operation. After the film was exposed, meaning all the shots were taken, the whole camera was returned to the Kodak company in Rochester, New York where the film was developed, prints were made, the new photographic film was inserted. Then the camera and prints were returned to the customer.

George Eastman was one of the first American industrialists to employ a full-time research scientist. Together with his associate, Eastman perfected the first commercial transparent roll film, which made possible Thomas Edison’s motion picture camera in 1891.

George Eastman Names Kodak - The Patent Suits

Photograph Taken With Kodak Camera - Circa 1909.

"The letter "K" had been a favorite of mine — it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with "K" - George Eastman on the naming of Kodak

Patent Suits

On April 26, 1976, one of the largest patent suits involving photography was filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. Polaroid Corporation, the assignee of numerous patents relating to instant photography, brought an action against Kodak Corporation for infringement of 12 Polaroid patents relating to instant photography. On October 11, 1985, five years of vigorous pre-trial activity and 75 days of trial, seven Polaroid patents were found to be valid and infringed. Kodak was out of the instant picture market, leaving customers with useless cameras and no film. Kodak offered camera owners various forms of compensation for their loss.

George Eastman and David Houston

George Eastman also bought the patent rights to twenty-one inventions related to photographic cameras issued to David H Houston.

Photograph of the Kodak Park Plant

Here's a photograph of the Eastman Kodak Co., Kodak Park plant, Rochester, N.Y. Circa 1900 to 1910.

Original Kodak Manual - Setting the Shutter

Figure 1 is intended to exhibit the operation of the setting of the shutter for an exposure.

Original Kodak Manual - Process of Winding a Fresh Film

Figure 2 shows the process of winding a fresh film into position. In taking a picture, the Kodak is held in the hand and pointed directly at the object. The button is pressed, and the filming is done, and this operation may be repeated a hundred times, or until the film is exhausted. Instantaneous pictures can only be made outdoors in bright sunshine.

Original Kodak Manual - Indoor Photographs

If pictures are to be made indoors, the camera is rested on a table or some steady support, and the exposure is made by hand as shown in Figure 3.