In 1879, London was the center of the photographic and business world. George Eastman went there to obtain a patent on his plate-coating machine. An American patent was granted the following year.
In 1880, he began the commercial manufacture of dry plates. Success of this venture so impressed businessman Henry A. Strong, that he invested some money in the infant concern.
On January 1, 1881, Eastman and Strong formed a partnership called the Eastman Dry Plate Company. Late that year, Eastman resigned from his position at the Rochester Savings Bank to devote all his time to the new company and its business. While actively managing all phases of the firm's activities, he continued research in an effort to simplify photography.
The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company was established in 1884.
In 1883, Eastman startled the trade with the announcement of film in rolls, with the roll holder adaptable to nearly every plate camera on the market. With the KODAK camera in 1888, he put down the foundation for making photography available to everyone.
The KODAK camera, pre-loaded with enough film for 100 exposures, could be easily carried and handheld during operation. It was priced at $25. After exposure, the whole camera was returned to Rochester. There the film was developed, prints were made and new film was inserted -- all for $10.
In 1884, the Eastman-Strong partnership had given way to a new firm -- the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company -- with 14 shareowners. A successive concern -- the Eastman Company, was formed in 1889.
The company has been called Eastman Kodak Company since 1892, when Eastman Kodak Company of New York was organized. In 1901, the present firm -- Eastman Kodak Company of New Jersey -- was formed under the laws of that state.
Eastman built his business on four basic principles:
- mass production at low cost
- international distribution
- extensive advertising
- a focus on the customer
He saw all four as being closely related. Mass production could not be justified without wide distribution. Distribution, in turn, needed the support of strong advertising. From the beginning, he imbued the company with the conviction that fulfilling customer needs and desires is the only road to corporate success.
To his basic principles of business, he added these policies:
- foster growth and development through continuing research
- treat employees in a fair, self-respecting way
- reinvest profits to build and extend the business
Kodak's history is one of progress in developing these basic principles and policies.
Mass Production at Low Cost
In the very early years of the company, Eastman was devoted to the idea of supplying the tools of photography at the lowest possible price to the greatest number of people. The rapid growth of the business made large-scale production a necessity. The creation of ingenious tools and processes for manufacturing film enabled the new company to turn out high-quality merchandise at selling prices that put them within the reach of the general public.
In 1896, the 100,000th KODAK camera was manufactured, and film and photographic paper were being made at the rate of about 400 miles a month. In those days, the pocket KODAK camera sold for $5. Not content with this, Eastman worked toward a camera that would operate simply and efficiently and sell for $1. The result of this effort was the introduction, in 1900, of the first in a long line of popular BROWNIE cameras.
A 1900 magazine advertisement for the popular BROWNIE camera.
By the time Eastman launched his dry plate business in 1880, European interest in photography was keen, but its practice was mostly limited to professionals.
Eastman recognized the potential of the world market for amateur photographers. Only five years after the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company was established in the U.S., a sales office was opened in London. Within the next few years, particularly after the introduction of the KODAK camera and Eastman's simplified methods, picture-taking became popular with hundreds of thousands of amateurs.
In 1889, the Eastman Photographic Materials Company, Limited, was incorporated in London, England, to handle distribution of Kodak products in countries outside the U.S. At first, all goods were manufactured in Rochester. Before long, the combined international and domestic demand outpaced plant resources.
Construction of a factory at Harrow, England -- just outside London -- was completed in 1891. By 1900, distribution outlets had been established in France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries. A Japanese outlet was under consideration, and construction of a factory in Canada was underway with the organization of Canadian Kodak Company, Limited.
Today, Kodak has manufacturing operations in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, and Kodak products are available in virtually every country across the globe.