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Kodak's growth and decline: a timeline

Rochester Business Journal
January 19, 2012

For more than a century, Eastman Kodak Co. has dominated Rochester’s business landscape and been one of the world’s most recognizable brands. Here is a timeline of the company’s growth and struggles since local employment peaked in the early 1980s:

1880 – George Eastman starts commercial production of dry plates for photography in a rented loft in Rochester.

1881 – Eastman quits his job as a bank clerk to work full time on his fledgling business, then known as the Eastman Dry Plate Co.

1883 – The firm moves into a four-story building at what now is 343 State Street, Kodak’s world headquarters.

1884 – The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Co. is formed as a $200,000 corporation with 14 shareholders.

1888 – The name “Kodak” is trademarked and the firm begins marketing the Kodak camera with the slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.”

1892 – The company becomes Eastman Kodak Co. of New York.

1900 – The Brownie camera is introduced. Selling for $1 and using film that costs 15 cents a roll, it creates a mass market for photography.

1907 – Kodak’s worldwide employment tops 5,000.

1912 – Employees received their first annual wage dividend.

1914 – A 16-story office building, the company’s present world headquarters, was completed at 343 State Street. Three more stories were added in 1930.

1920 – Tennessee Eastman, a chemical business, is founded as a wholly owned subsidiary.

1921 – The Eastman Savings and Loan Association was established to help employees save and to finance home purchases. It became an independent credit union in 1994.

1927 – Kodak’s total employment passed the 20,000 mark.

1929 – The company introduces its first film for sound motion pictures.

1930 – Kodak is added to the Dow Jones Industrial Average index.

1932 – George Eastman dies; he leaves his entire estate to the University of Rochester.

1935 – Kodachrome film is introduced; it becomes the first commercially successful amateur color film.

1946 – Kodak employment worldwide surpasses 60,000.

1959 – The number of Kodak shareowners tops 100,000.

1962 – Kodak’s U.S. consolidated sales exceed $1 billion for the first time and the company now employs more than 75,000.

1963 – Kodak introduces a line of easy-to-use Instamatic cameras with cartridge-loading film.

1966 – Worldwide sales pass the $4 billion mark, and Kodak’s global employment moves past 100,000.

1967 – Kodak starts to move its Camera Works plant to a 600-acre site in Gates. The Elmgrove Plant remains the center of Kodak’s U.S. equipment manufacturing until its sale in 2000.

1973 – Worldwide employment tops 120,000.

1975 – Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invents the world’s first digital camera. The prototype captures black-and-white images at a resolution of 10,000 pixels (.01 megapixels).

1981 – Total sales surpass $10 billion.

1982 – Kodak’s payroll in Rochester peaks at 60,400.

1983 – Colby Chandler is elected chairman and CEO; Kay R. Whitmore became president.

1986 – Kodak’s local payroll falls below 50,000. The company enters the health-care market with the establishment of its Eastman Pharmaceuticals Division.

1987 – Kodak’s first one-time-use camera—the Kodak Fling Camera—is introduced.

1988 – Global employment peaks at 145,300. Kodak acquires Sterling Drug Inc.

1990 – Kay Whitmore is elected chairman and CEO. Kodak rolls out its Photo CD system for playing images on television screens. Polaroid Corp. wins a $909.5 million award against Kodak for infringement of Polaroid's instant-photography patents. A court had ruled in 1985 after a 75-day trial that Kodak had infringed Polaroid's instant photography patents when Kodak launched instant cameras in the mid-1970s.

1993 – George Fisher, previously CEO of Motorola Inc., becomes chairman and CEO. Eastman Chemical Co., founded in 1920, becomes an independent publicly held company.

1994 – Kodak divests its non-imaging health-related businesses: Sterling Winthrop, L&F Products and Clinical Diagnostics. Proceeds are used to reduce debt.

1995 – Kodak launches its Internet website,

1996 – The Advanced Photo System format is introduced. Kodak’s first pocket-sized digital cameras for the consumer market are unveiled.

1997 – Kodak sells the sales, marketing, and equipment service operations of its Office Imaging business and its facilities management business (formerly known as Kodak Imaging Services) to Danka Business Systems PLC.

1998 – America Online and Kodak announced “You've Got Pictures!” a service where AOL members could have their processed pictures delivered online. Kodak buys most of Imation Corp.’s worldwide medical imaging business. Rochester payroll slides below 30,000 to 28,100.

1999 – Kodak sells its digital printer, copier/duplicator and roller assembly operations to Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. The two companies also expanded their joint venture, NexPress, which was created in 1998.    

2001 – Daniel Carp becomes CEO as well as president. A year later, he adds chairman to his title. The Kodak EasyShare line of digital cameras and docking systems is launched. The firm acquires Ofoto Inc., a leading online photography service.   

2002 – Kodak acquires Encad, Inc., which becomes a wholly owned subsidiary focused exclusively on the wide-format inkjet printing industry.

2003 – Former Hewlett-Packard Co. executive Antonio Perez joins the company as president and chief operating officer. The firm unveils a new digitally oriented strategy to accelerate growth.

2004 – Kodak’s local job count hits 16,300, falling below 20,000 for the first time in decades. The firm expands its graphic communications business, becoming sole owner of former joint venture NexPress and Scitex Digital Printing, which was renamed Kodak Versamark Inc.

2004 – The company embarks on its digital makeover. It is removed from the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average. Some 15,000 jobs are shed as it closes factories and changes businesses.

2005 – Perez becomes CEO as well as president; at the start of 2006 he adds the chairman’s title.

2006 – The firm divests its digital camera manufacturing operations to Flextronics.

2007 – Kodak completes the sale of its Health Group to an affiliate of Onex Corp. of Canada. The business becomes Carestream Health Inc. With the move, Kodak’s local payroll falls below 10,000.

2008 – Kodak begins mining its patent portfolio, which generates nearly $2 billion in fees over three years.

2009 – The company posts a $137 million fourth-quarter loss and announces plans to cut up to 4,500 more jobs. It ceases selling Kodachrome film after 74 years of production.

2010 – Kodak sues Apple Inc. and Research in Motion before the U.S. International Trade Commission, accusing the smartphone makers of patent infringement. Global employment falls to 18,800. Standard & Poor’s removed Kodak from its S&P 500 index.

2011 – The company looks to sell some 1,100 digital-imaging patents. A judge extends the camera patent dispute into 2012. Kodak shares fall below $1 and it receives a delisting warning from the New York Stock Exchange. In December, General Counsel Laura Quatela is elected as president. Philip Faraci also will continue as president, a position he has held since September 2007.

2012 – Kodak unveils a new business structure, cutting its number of segments from three to two: the commercial segment and the consumer segment. Then in the early morning hours of Jan. 19, Kodak files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Sources:, the Associated Press and the RBJ Archive

(c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

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