Maria Kilbourn Eastman c. 1850

In September 1888 Eastman formally registered his coined word Kodak as a trademark. Some such combination of letters had been rolling around in Eastman’s mind during the past year or so, when he had been trying to come up with a suitable name for a “little roll-holder breast camera” he was designing to match the failed Eastman detective camera.

In his application to the comptroller of the British patent office, who required a full disclosure of the meaning and derivation of the name, Eastman wrote:

“Kodak,” This is not a foreign name or word; it was constructed by me to serve a definite purpose. It has the following merits as a trade-mark word:

First. It is short
Second. It is not capable of mispronunciation.
Third. It does not resemble anything in the art and cannot be associated with anything in the art except the Kodak.

Eastman did not mention that K was his favorite letter (it was the first letter of his mother’s maiden name), but that detail didn’t matter. The “K” camera he had been referring to in his letters and conversation officially became the Kodak camera.

Douglass Collins, The Story of Kodak, 54-55


George Eastman Sr., late 1840s.

By the time George Washington Eastman, Sr., was an adult, the western expansion movement had begun. In 1842 Eastman left his home town of Waterville, New York, a village of several hundred hops farmers and small tradesmen, for Rochester, a commercial and industrial city about a hundred miles to the west. It is not clear where he acquired his business training and expertise, but in Rochester he founded a college. The Eastman Commercial College, a business school that offered courses in the study of commercial penmanship, double-entry bookkeeping, and even spelling, a linguistic dicipline that had only recently become regularized by Noah Webster’s new American dictionary.

Continue reading “Penmanship”