*NEWS*INGENUITY AND DILIGENCE LAUNCHED XEROX & KODAK
*NEWS*INGENUITY AND DILIGENCE LAUNCHED XEROX & KODAK
2008-03-12 at 1:34:24 pm #21511
Ingenuity, diligence launched Kodak, Xerox
“The residence of the late Wilson Soule on East Avenue, one of the costliest and handsomest residences in the city, has been sold by Mrs. Soule … to George Eastman, of the Eastman Kodak Company, the price being set at $110,000.”— Democrat and Chronicle, Sept. 29, 1894
George Eastman’s road to success was not nearly as rocky as that of John Bausch, who we discussed in last week’s column. When Eastman bought the Soule mansion, he was 40 years old. By his mid-40s, he was worth $425,000 a year.
But getting to that point was not exactly a stroll along a primrose path either.
“His life was both easy and tough,” biographer Elizabeth Brayer writes. “A reticent, diminutive boy, he lost his father at age seven.” His mother had to take in boarders to make ends meet; the family survived in a sort of “genteel poverty.” And yet, the loss of this father “focused rather than diminished his life as he quickly assumed the role of head of family.” By 23, he had already been working nearly 10 years. He had been an insurance agent, then bank clerk. Then a transforming moment occurred.A contemplated trip to Santo Domingo did not come off, but in making preparations, Eastman bought a camera and “became totally absorbed in photography.”
Taking a picture in those days was no easy task. The cameras were large and bulky and had to be mounted on tripods. Images were captured not on film, but on glass “wet plates,” which had to be coated with collodion and sensitized with nitrates just before exposure. So the photographer had to also carry along a corrosive silver nitrate bath and a dark tent. No wonder photography in those days was the pursuit of professionals and only a small cadre of dedicated amateurs. Eastman was convinced there had to be an easier way.The first step was the development of “dry plates,” coated with a mix of nitrates, bromide and gelatin that would remain sensitive even after drying. This meant a photographer would no longer have to carry chemicals into the field.When Eastman read about this development, he realized it was “the technology of the future,” notes Douglas Collins in The Story of Kodak. Eastman set up a makeshift lab in his mother’s kitchen and began perfecting the emulsion that had to be applied to the plates.Three years later, in 1880, Eastman had a fledgling dry-plate business up and running. The following Jan. 1 he had a partner. Henry Strong, who had lodged with the Eastmans in the 1860s and was a successful buggy-whip manufacturer, provided $6,000 in much needed capital.Very quickly, Eastman Dry Plate Co. built a reputation for its quality product and for fair dealing. When a problem with the gelatin caused a large batch of dry plates to fail, Eastman quickly replaced them.It was but one of Eastman’s business traits that would lead to success. The other was his fervent belief that the growth of the industry depended on simplifying the art of photography, so that anyone, even a child, could take a picture.With that in mind, Collins notes, Eastman began “item by item to redesign each piece of equipment in the nineteenth-century photographic kit bag.”
Camera, film innovations
He did so at breakneck speed:
1884: Eastman’s company starts putting light-sensitive emulsion on paper, not plates, stored on a roll holder — the first crude “roll of film” and “the beginning of a complete change in photography,” according to Kodak Milestones.
1888: The “Kodak” name is coined; the first Kodak camera is marketed, loaded with enough film for 100 pictures and selling for $25. Once the film was exposed, the camera and film was returned to Rochester for the film to be developed, prints made and camera reloaded, all for 10 dollars. “You press the button — we do the rest,” was the company slogan.
1891: The company markets its first daylight-loading camera.
1900: The first Brownie cameras are introduced. The cameras cost a dollar each; the film only 15 cents a roll. “For the first time, the hobby of photography was within the financial reach of almost everyone,” Milestones notes.Eastman Kodak was off and running. And as the years passed, Eastman would devote more and more of his time and money to philanthropic pursuits, in ways that have indelibly shaped our community.
A historic coincidence
In 1906, a great coincidence occurred. Four men in Rochester “met in a room over the Ford Shoe factory to establish the Haloid Co.,” Rudolf Kingslake notes in The Photographic Manufacturing Companies of Rochester, New York. And that same year Chester Carlson was born in Seattle.
Decades later, they would combine to create a photocopying giant called Xerox.
Haloid made photographic paper, and soon found there was another market for its product besides photographic prints. The first crude photographic document printer — called the Rectigraph — had been invented. Its inventor moved his operation to Rochester in 1909 to be closer to Haloid, his principal source of paper and chemicals.Acquisition of the Rectigraph Co. in 1936 “gave Haloid an application for their excellent copying paper,” Kingslake writes.Carlson, in the meantime, was toiling over an easier and less expensive way to make copies, one that would transform Haloid on a scale none of its original founders had ever imagined.His story, like that of Bausch, and like that of Eastman, is one of great perseverance.
A copying breakthrough
Carlson was a physics-trained New York patent attorney who had graduated from the California Institute of Technology at the worst possible time: The Great Depression. He applied to 82 companies for jobs, and got only two responses.He landed a position at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City, only to be laid off. He earned a law degree by studying at night while working at an electronics firm, and was promoted to manager of the firm’s patent office.Carlson noticed there never seemed to be enough carbon copies of patent specifications, and had an idea: What if a device could be invented that would make copies of documents in mere seconds using ordinary paper?”Obeying the inventor’s instinct to travel the uncharted course, Carlson turned to the little-known field of photoconductivity,” notes an online Xerox history.Some of his first experiments were in his kitchen at home — just like Bausch, and just like Eastman, and much to the dismay of his wife. He eventually rented a single room above a bar in Astoria — his new lab — and hired a German refugee named Otto Kornei to help with the research.The first image they succeed in reproducing: “10-22-38 ASTORIA.”
The birth of Xerox
Proving his process could work was only the start. Selling others on the idea was something else again.”He pounded the pavement for years in a fruitless search for a company that would develop his invention into a useful product. From 1939 to 1944 he was turned down by more than twenty companies,” according to the Xerox history.Finally Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research organization, signed a royalty sharing contract with Carlson. In 1947, Battelle entered an agreement with Haloid, giving the small company the right to develop a xerographic machine.
And the rest is history.
Much as Henry Lomb was essential to Bausch’s success, so too was Joseph C. Wilson to the success of Carlson’s invention. The Haloid president, along with other company officials, “saw enormous potential” in the new copying process “where others saw only the hazards,” a company online history notes.”In a sense, Xerox was to mimic the explosive growth that Kodak had enjoyed some sixty years before,” Kingslake adds. “However, there were significant differences. Kodak had grown by catering to the amateur and professional market, offering the photographer a complete line of the materials, services and apparatus that were required to take photographs. Xerox, on the other hand, grew by supplying industries and offices with machines that produced a product — copies — that they needed, but until Xerox produced a fast, convenient way of making them, they never realized they needed in such quantity.”