WXXI AM News

Well-known Eastman biographer has died

Nov 3, 2017

Credit George Eastman Museum

A woman who wrote what a lot of people consider to be a definitive biography of George Eastman has died at age 84. Elizabeth Brayer was well known in the Rochester cultural community. She died on Wednesday.

Brayer wrote a more than 600 page biography that was first published in 1996, and reprinted a decade later.

Kathy Connor is the Eastman Legacy Curator at the George Eastman Museum and she was also a good friend of Brayer’s.  She worked closely with Brayer, who did a lot of her research at the museum as well as at Kodak. 

Connor says the museum still uses that biography of George Eastman as its bible, and she says Brayer was just a great resource for many years.

“For years, when people would ask me a question I could research with what we had here but if I didn’t know for sure I would bounce it off of Betsy. We’d bring her photographs and questions and emails all the time and get her take on it so we could maybe identify someone in a photograph we weren’t sure about, or answer someone’s question," Connor told WXXI News.

Connor says there had been one other major biography of Eastman  before Brayer’s book, but that biography was more of a look at the business aspects of Eastman’s life. She says Brayer’s book provided a more comprehensive picture of George Eastman’s personal and professional life.

“You know he had many close friends but not everyone that worked with him or colleagues in the field would necessarily know all aspects of him and I think she found it fascinating and the more she did research and the more she talked to people who knew him, oral histories, not only at the company but also in his family relatives, she was able to put together different aspects of the story.”

Connor says Brayer continued to do work on Eastman and other local cultural institutions right up until her death this week.