Kingsport: “E” is for Eastman

In this town, Eastman Chemical Company is affectionately known as The Big “E” or just “The Eastman.” The new archival exhibit at the Kingsport Public Library celebrates the history of Eastman’s ninety-five years in Kingsport, Tennessee.   Due to the shortage of raw materials available to Eastman Kodak caused by World War I, George Eastman sought self-sufficiency for his company. By 1920, Kingsport, Tennessee, with its nearby forests and the Holston River coursing through town, was selected as the perfect plant site.

The exhibit, which is situated in two cases on the main floor of the library, displays items from 20 different collections within the Archives of the City of Kingsport. Each of these collections were donated by families or individuals and are not part of an official Eastman collection. This demonstrates just how many families claim Eastman as part of their story. I originally examined 39 collections before making my selections.

The left exhibit case  spans the history of Tennessee Eastman from 1920-1950.

The left exhibit case spans the history of Tennessee Eastman from 1920-1950.

Here are some of my favorite items for the first thirty years of Eastman’s history. This era included great expansion of the Kingsport site, involvement in the Manhattan Project at Oakridge, and the building and running of the nearby RDX manufacturing facility, Holston Ordnance Works.

1921 edition of the photographer's magazine, Kodakery.

1921 edition of the photographer’s magazine, Kodakery.

Saw mill crew of 1937.

Saw mill crew of 1937.

Here are some of my favorite items from the right exhibit case.

Items in the right exhibit case represent Eastman's history from 1951-1994.

Items in the right exhibit case represent Eastman’s history from 1951-1994.

During these years, Tennessee Eastman suffered its worst-ever industrial accident, built manufacturing plants in Texas, South Carolina, and Arkansas, experienced a spin-off from Eastman Kodak, and discontinued its management of Holston Defense.

John Stiles' "Secret Clearance" certificate issued by Holston Ordnance Works.

John Stiles’ “Secret Clearance” certificate issued by Holston Ordnance Works, 1953.

 

Demonstration of Eastman 910 Adhesive, 5 September 1957.

Demonstration of Eastman 910 Adhesive, 5 September 1957.

An image of the October 4, 1960 explosion from the Geraldine Byrd Collection.

An image of the October 4, 1960 explosion from the Geraldine Byrd Collection.

Eastman's Cafeteria Cookbook revealed the secret author of the newsletters' Just for Fun" series, ca. 1965.

Eastman’s Cafeteria Cookbook revealed the secret author of the newsletters’ “Just for the Fun of It” series, ca. 1965.

Here are a couple of those cafeteria-sized recipes.

What is Voltex? And, when will you need 12 dozen muffins?

What is Voltex? And, when will you need 12 dozen muffins?

Crushed Goobers, "That's Peanut Butter to you!"

Crushed Goobers, that’s “Peanut Butter to you!”

A sign of things to come. Just one of the 1994 spin-off changes.

A sign of things to come. Just one of the 1994 spin-off changes.

The thing I am the most excited about for this exhibit is the chance to display three of our bound volumes of the TEC Newsletters. The archives has a complete set from 1946-1999. In the first case, the 1946 volume is opened to Eastman’s May 28 tribute to their WWII honored dead. In the second case, the 1960 and 1993 volumes are turned to the tribute to the 15 employees who died in the Analine explosion and to the Kodak spin-off, respectively. The bound newsletters are a genealogist’s and local historian’s dream. Archivist Brianne would love it if you came in to read them. Mention this blog and you will receive a discount!

The Eastman history exhibit will be on display until April 10, 2016.

Feature Image: Aerial image printed in the July 17, 1970 newsletter commemorating the company’s 50-year anniversary.

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8 Responses to Kingsport: “E” is for Eastman

  1. Betsy Taylor Powell says:

    I would love to see photos of Edgewood Village, the company’s rental housing located very close to the plant. I grew up there.

    • Kari says:

      Betsy,
      The archives has a blue print map from the late 20s with Edgewood Village on it and also a Bennett & Edwards map from the 40s with it on there but no photographs. Brianne suggests searching the Newspaper Archives Online the next time you are in the library. The building of it and the tearing down would have been newsworthy.

  2. Shauna Blotter says:

    I was wondering about voltex too. 🙂 It looks like a great exhibit. Thanks, Kari!

  3. Charlotte Dison says:

    The early days when George Eastman came to Kingsport to evaluate the site and to meet with community leaders marked the beginning of a great company and a community relationship. Thank you for researching and putting the display together.

  4. David DeBry says:

    This is great Kari! Thanks for sharing. What a great place to work!

  5. Karen Cassell says:

    Great display! I loved the TEC News when my father got his in the mail each week. The whole family usually read it.

  6. Kathleen Fueston says:

    What a nice tribute to the Big E. I need to go look up Voltex from both of the recipes. Is that some top secret chemical made by Eastman? :0)

  7. Brian Wilson says:

    Looks like a wonderful exhibit! I remember many of those items from when I worked there 🙂

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