Our History


Tennessee Eastman Corporation is incorporated in the summer of 1920 to provide raw materials for Kodak’s photographic business. Over its first decade of operation, the Kingsport site expands its production to include products like non-flammable X-ray film and charcoal briquettes.


Eastman’s second decade sees expansion into materials like acetate yarn and cellulosic plastics. Eastman TENITE plastic is used for a wide range of products including steering wheels, radio knobs, and poker chips. Under the leadership of Perley Wilcox, the Kingsport site begins producing hydroquinone and acetic acid, chemicals it continues to manufacture today.


Eastman supports the U.S. during World War II by manufacturing the powerful explosive RDX at Holston Ordnance Works in Kingsport. Hydroquinone becomes a critical ingredient for rubber in jeep and aircraft tires. Because of its reputation as a “gets things done” company, Eastman is operations lead for the Y-12 plant of Clinton Engineer Works, helping develop the atomic bomb.


Eastman operations expand to Longview, Texas, to produce ethylene and propylene for ethyl alcohol and aldehydes for the Kingsport site, and polyethylene for use in products like packaging and cameras. The production of acetate tow filter begins. New research labs yield a range of products acrylic, textile and polyester fibers, adhesives, and wax coatings.


The 1960s are period of growth for Eastman. Revenues doubled over the decade. The first manufacturing plant outside the United States opens in Workington, England, producing fibers. The company expands operations to Columbia, South Carolina, to keep up with growing demand for polyester textiles.


The company experiences strong growth as revenues grow to $2 billion by the end of the decade. Eastman introduces cellulose acetate butyrate (CAB) for high quality automotive coatings. A manufacturing site in Batesville, Arkansas, opens to produce photographic and organic chemicals. The oil embargo pressures the company to become less dependent on oil as a feedstock.


Eastman begins operations of the first commercial plant designed to make industrial chemicals from coal. The company joins other peers in launching the RESPONSIBLE CARE initiative. They commit to improve health, safety and environmental performance beyond levels required by law and to make that performance known to employees, communities and the public.


Eastman spins off from Kodak as the 10th largest chemical company in the U.S. and the 34th largest in the world. Earnie Deavenport is the first CEO of the new publicly traded company, guiding Eastman through rapid global expansion. U.S. President Bill Clinton presents Eastman the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.


Global growth continues including the opening of a regional headquarters in The Netherlands. The company’s portfolio begins to shift with acquisitions (Hercules in 2011) and divestitures of some businesses and sites. Top leadership changes twice with Brian Ferguson becoming CEO in 2002 and James P. Rogers succeeding him in 2009. Eastman’s rich legacy of innovation continues with the launch of Eastman Tritan copolyester in 2007.


Eastman continues its global portfolio evolution. Two of the largest acquisitions in its history (Solutia in 2012 and Taminco in 2014) propel the company forward in its transformation toward being a specialty materials company. The company begins to earn international accolades including ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, Responsible Care Company of the Year, World’s Most Ethical Companies, Best Place to Work by Glassdoor, and America’s Most JUST companies. Mark Costa becomes CEO in 2014.

2020 and beyond

As its second century begins, Eastman is well positioned to become the Materials Innovation Company, tackling the challenges of global macro trends. Advances in chemical recycling make Eastman the premier innovation leader for the circular economy. Just as they have for Eastman’s first 100 years, the people of Eastman are single greatest advantage the company has to deliver superior outcomes for all of its stakeholders, enhancing the quality of life in a material way.