1914 Kodachrome of George Eastman

This is a color portrait of George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.  It was taken by photographer Joseph D’ Anunzio on September 2, 1914, more than 20 years before Kodachrome film was introduced to the public.  The photograph came to the Smithsonian Institute’s Photographic History Collection by accident.  In 1969, several hundred portraits were donated to the collection by a single person.  Among them were four 8” x 10” glass plates, described as Kodachromes taken in 1914.  Unfortunately, two of the portraits, both of young women, arrived damaged.  One had a cracked corner; the other had a crack in the glass plate from top to bottom.  The donor apologized for packing the glass plates poorly and sent the color portrait of George Eastman by way of compensation.

“Kodachrome” is a type of color reversal film Kodak introduced in 1935.  The company had at least 3 different processes that went by this name, the first in 1914.  In the early years of the 20th century, Eastman Kodak pursued the development of a simple color photography process that could be used by amateur photographers.  Charles Mees, the first director of Kodak Research Laboratories, said that George Eastman was crazy about color.

The 1914 version was devised by John Capstaff, a member of Kodak’s research staff. To make a color image like the museum’s photograph, two 8” x 10” glass plates were sandwiched together.  Two photos were taken at the same time by a special camera through green and orange-red filters that reversed one image with a mirror.  After the negatives were developed the positive images were dyed green and orange-red and bound together with the emulsion sides face to face.  Kodak stopped manufacturing Kodachrome in 2010, but its legacy continues as a hallmark of photography.

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