Fine George Eastman Letter with Motion Picture Content

Signed by George Eastman

At Auction
Item: 21511
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EASTMAN, GEORGE. (1854-1932). American photography pioneer, businessman and philanthropist. TLS. (“Geo Eastman”). 1p. 4to. Rochester, January 13, 1913. On Eastman Kodak Company letterhead to inventor and motion picture pioneer HENRY “HARRY” NORTON MARVIN (1862-1940) who, as one of the founders of the Biograph Company, contributed to making California the center of the American film industry.

“I am returning by express today the motion picture camera which you so kindly loaned me. Please accept my best thanks for allowing me to inspect it.

I was obliged to return the Jenkins camera, not being able to make it work satisfactorily, but I am having better luck with a little Butcher machine which I recently found in New York. This I am taking with me on my southern trip.

Mr. Philipp has probably explained to you the conclusions which we reached in regard to the Kinetograph matter. I am truly sorry that this scheme has taken a shape that seems to bar us out…”

George Eastman and Thomas Edison 1928

Eastman established Eastman Kodak in 1888, and his invention of roll film and the marketing of inexpensive cameras, ushered in the era of amateur photography and brought him enormous wealth. Eastman became one of the country’s leading philanthropists and invested much of his wealth in Rochester’s educational institutions, including the University of Rochester and RIT.

In 1894, Marvin, a teacher in Syracuse, New York, helped invent a device to compete with Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope and Kinetograph motion picture cameras that had been developed several years earlier. The following year, Marvin opened the Marvin Electric Rock Drill Works where he manufactured drills while continuing his motion picture experiments. Forming the American Mutoscope Company (and later the American Mutoscope and Biograph, or Biograph Company), Marvin and his associates, one of whom had helped develop the Kinetograph while in Edison’s employ, built a projector that led Edison to file numerous copyright infringement lawsuits. Nonetheless, Marvin and the Biograph Company became one of the leading film producers and distributors in the world from the 1890s into the 1910s. Biograph’s lengthy and talented roster included Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Lionel Barrymore, and director D.W. Griffith. In 1910, Griffith and a troupe of Biograph actors and producers arrived in California to make several films including In Old California, filmed in the bucolic hills of the village of Hollywood, prompting other filmmakers to flock to California, making it the American motion picture industry capital.

From 1908-1915, Biograph, Edison, Eastman Kodak and a number of other American film companies, were part of the Motion Pictures Patent Company (MPCC) also known as the Edison Trust, to standardize film production and distribution and enforce unauthorized use of their films, projectors and other equipment. Prior to this collaboration and because of different film formats, movies produced by one company could only be projected using its proprietary equipment. Eastman Kodak, as the only manufacturer of raw film in the trust, had a virtual monopoly among its members. The trust’s restrictive nature helped drive independent filmmakers to California, far from the reach of Edison and MPPC’s lawyers on the East Coast. The trust’s control of the industry began to falter in 1911, when Eastman began selling raw film to filmmakers outside the MPPC. Members of the trust were prohibited from making longer films, a void enthusiastically filled by independent and foreign filmmakers beginning in 1912. Edison, Biograph and other MPPC members did not release feature-length films until 1914, at which time the last of the patents held by the MPPC expired and diminished their influence.

Our letter discusses a movie camera produced by Charles Francis Jenkins (1867-1934), whose numerous patents included the Phantoscope movie projector, later sold to Edison, and marketed as the Vitascope. Jenkins is also credited with inventing the first automobile with the engine in the car’s front (instead of under the seat) and was a pioneer in the field of television, being the first to transmit synchronized images and sound. In 1928, he opened the first television broadcasting station in the United States, W3XK, the Jenkins Television Corporation.

The Butcher camera refers to one produced by the British firm W. Butcher and Sons Ltd., established by William Butcher in 1887.

Folded with some scattered age toning and staining. In very good condition and rare with motion picture content.

Fine George Eastman Letter with Motion Picture Content

Signed by George Eastman


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