George Eastman Legacy
The George Eastman Legacy Collection comprises artifacts and records relating to the life and career of George Eastman. The collection consists of Eastman’s restored historic home, furnishings, decorative arts, and related artifacts, as well as substantial holdings of his personal and business correspondence, private library, photographs, negatives, films, and related personal items.
The more than 200,000 objects in the collection fall into the following areas:
House, furnishings, and decorative arts
The 35,000-square-foot Colonial Revival mansion built for George Eastman is furnished with original, reproduction, and period furnishings and decorative arts. These artifacts include textiles such as oriental carpets, draperies, and portieres; light fixtures; desks, chairs, tables, bookshelves, and other furniture; oil paintings and photographic reproductions of paintings and watercolors; and bronze sculptures and decorative arts such as vases, cigarette boxes, jardinieres, frames, and globes.
Manuscripts and books
The manuscript collection comprises 45,600 items of personal and business correspondence received by George Eastman from 1879 until his death in 1932, along with bound volumes of his responses. Among the personal letters are a twelve-year correspondence with Booker T. Washington; letters from photographers Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz and explorers Osa and Martin Johnson; and letters from four US presidents—Theodore Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The business correspondence describes the development of the products and processes of the Eastman Kodak Company and provides insight into the photographic and motion picture industries in the United States. (Please note: These letters are not available online and must be viewed in person by making an appointment.)
The collection also consists of forty scrapbooks kept by the Eastman Kodak Company publicity department outlining its activities from the late 1880s until 1932, souvenirs from business trips and vacations, awards, Eastman family memorabilia, and items relating to the Eastman Commercial College, a business school started by George Eastman’s father.
The personal photograph collection contains both loose photographs and albums, nitrate and glass plate negatives, and lantern slides taken by or given to George Eastman. Subjects of these photographs relate to the Eastman family; George Eastman’s African safaris, vacations, and business trips; his philanthropic interests; his house and gardens; and Eastman Kodak Company. More than 9,500 nitrate negatives and 3,642 lantern slides have been digitized and are accessible to researchers.
Films and videos
Among the moving images in the Legacy collection that were taken by or for George Eastman are the film made at the announcement of Kodacolor with Thomas Edison in 1928 at Eastman’s home, a film of Eastman's speech to the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in 1931 (the only known recording of George Eastman's voice), and home movies from Eastman's vacations, including two safaris to Africa. The collection also includes several Eastman Kodak Company TV commercials from the 1960s and 1970s produced by Warren Aldoretta and J. Walter Thompson. A selection of television documentaries on George Eastman, Eastman Kodak Company, and the George Eastman Museum are also held in the Legacy collection.
Kodak advertising and publications, 1880–1980
In November 2003, the Eastman Kodak Company donated their entire collection of advertising materials to the Eastman Museum. The majority of the approximately 95,000 advertisements are in English, but the collection also holds many ads in foreign languages—in particular, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Chinese.
Please note that this is the historic online database and is not a comprehensive or representative selection of the collection at the Eastman Museum. These selected highlights represent only a very small portion of the objects in the George Eastman Legacy collection. For more information on the Legacy collection, contact the George Eastman Study Center at GESC@eastman.org. We are currently working to make the entire collection database accessible online.
The materials received from the University of Rochester library include some additional letters from Eastman to his mother, Maria Kilbourn Eastman, and his niece Ellen Dryden, along with photos of his relatives, friends, and colleagues. The collection also includes many snapshots from his trips and vacations around the globe and information and images on his varied philanthropic interests. These objects, which are separate from the majority of our correspondence holdings which have not yet been digitized, can be viewed on the University of Rochester's website at the link above. To view more correspondence in the George Eastman Legacy collection, please contact the George Eastman Study Center at GESC@eastman.org to make a research appointment.