Eastman Plates and Film

Eastman became a keen amateur photographer while he was employed as a junior clerk at the Rochester Savings Bank, in New York State. Through reading British photographic magazines, he learned about a new dry gelatin emulsion coating for photographic plates and began to work on his own formula. After experimenting for three years, Eastman patented his dry gelatin photographic plate in 1879 and an emulsion-coating machine for making them. In 1880, he leased premises and began to manufacture dry gelatin plates. A year later, he founded the Eastman Dry Plate Company in partnership with Henry A. Strong. By 1883, the company needed larger premises and moved to a four-story building. It was reconstituted as the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company, a corporation with $200,000 stock held by fourteen shareholders, in 1884.

While dry gelatin plates were much easier to use than their wet collodion predecessors, Eastman was still not satisfied because glass plates were a heavy burden for the field photographer. His goal was to find a lighter and more flexible support than glass. In 1884, he brought out Eastman Negative Paper on rolls and a roll-holder attachment. However, the resulting images were inferior to those from glass plates, as the grain of the paper was visible. The next development was Eastman American Film, described as a transparent “stripping” film. Introduced in 1885, it was a paper strip coated with two layers of gelatin. The base layer of gelatin masked the paper grain and, after processing, the paper backing was stripped away.