Eastman has played a major role in many areas of history. This tradition of leadership and innovation has affected our past and will continue to direct our future as a pioneer and leader in an ever changing global market. Our core values of quality, innovation and teamwork provided the framework for our success.
The War Years
Glimpses of our heritage can be found beginning in World War I. The war caused a scarcity in raw materials such as photographic paper, optical glass, gelatin and many chemicals, including methanol, acetic acid and acetone. At the close of the war in 1918, Eastman Kodak founder, George Eastman, was determined to have an independent supply of chemicals for his photographic processes. In his search for suitable quantities of methanol and acetone, Eastman turned his attention to the Southern United States and its forests, and to Kingsport, Tennessee. In 1920, Tennessee Eastman was founded with two major platforms - organic chemicals and acetyls. From the primary feedstock of pyroligneous acid, many of Eastman's basic chemical building blocks were manufactured, studied and perfected. Products such as calcium acetate, sodium acetate, acetic acid and acetic anhydride became the basis for other major company platforms.
The next World War brought more involvement for Eastman. RDX, a powerful explosive, was manufactured for the U.S. government at Holston Ordnance Works at Tennessee Eastman sites. At the peak of production, close to the end of the war, the ordnance plant was producing a million and a half pounds of explosives each day. Eastman management became the operations lead on the Y-12 plant of Clinton Engineer Works, which helped develop the atomic bomb. Eastman's involvement was demanded because we were seen as a "get something done" company.
Expanding Products and Capabilities
In the decades that followed, Eastman's portfolio of products continued to expand. By the late 1960's, Tennessee Eastman Company was manufacturing scores of products that were fast becoming familiar features of everyday life. Polyester fibers for apparels and home furnishings, plastics for the automobile industry, and a growing number of industrial chemicals were serving an ever expanding customer base. Our physical presence around the globe grew as well with the emergence of sales offices and the construction of manufacturing facilities in strategic locations.
Eastman is the first manufacturer in the U.S. to develop and commercialize technology that derives chemicals from coal, rather than petroleum. The first coal gasification facility began operation in 1983 in Kingsport, Tenn. and in 1995 was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society.
Eastman's commitment to quality was recognized when the company received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1993. The following year, Eastman Chemical Company spun off from Eastman Kodak and became an independent corporation.
The Tradition Continues
The rich history of innovation continued in 2007 with the development of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester. This new generation copolyester offers innovative design and application possibilities along with clarity, toughness, heat and chemical resistance. This is our next step in our commitment to maintain our leadership position through technology and innovation.
Eastman's innovative products continue to make life safer, easier, more convenient and more enjoyable. From its beginning more than 90 years ago, Eastman has grown to be a leader in the global chemical industry. Our cutting edge products enhance the lives of people around the world and still bear the name of the man who started it all, George Eastman.