File 2005. - Second annual Kodak minstrel show

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Second annual Kodak minstrel show

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  • Graphic material

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  • Attributions and conjectures: Title taken from review clipping on verso of group portrait.

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  • February 17-18, 1921 (Creation)
    Kodak Canada Inc.

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Physical description

2 photographs : b&w ; Mounted 8.75 x 14.25 inches ; print: 5.5 x 9.5 inches ; and, Mounted 10.25 x 14.25 inches ; print : 5.5 x 9.5 inches

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Administrative history

Canadian Kodak Ltd., which became Kodak Canada Inc. in 1979, manufactured photographic films, papers and equipment for over a century in Toronto, Ontario. The company formed the Canadian branch of the successful Eastman Kodak Company, and officially opened its doors in 1900 at 41 Colborne Street under the direction of John G. Palmer. The company expanded and moved to 588 King Street West in 1908, but already plans were underway for an expansive complex to the north of the city. In 1912, Canadian Kodak purchased 25 acres of farmland near Weston Road and Eglinton Avenue to build a major manufacturing facility known as Kodak Heights. By 1925, there were over 900 employees working in seven buildings at Kodak Heights. Over the years, the company earned a reputation for having a cooperative and supportive relationship with its employees, adopting many of the successful practices in place at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. In 1940, an Employee's Building was constructed to accommodate the activities of the flourishing Recreation Club, the Department Mangers' Club, and the Kodak Heights Camera Club. During the 1990s, the rise of digital media began to have a serious impact on manufacturing programs at Kodak facilities around the world, causing the Eastman Kodak Company to reduce its production of traditional print photography by one third globally. The company chose to focus on digital products, which did not require the extensive facilities used in the production of traditional photographic materials. On December 9, 2004, Kodak Canada Ltd. informed its employees that manufacturing operations in traditional film products would cease entirely at Kodak Heights. The company's facility faced the same fate as many of its foreign counterparts in England, Australia and France, being completely abandoned and demolished shortly after closure in 2005. Kodak Canada still maintains a sales and support office in downtown Toronto, while the manufacture of traditional photographic chemistry has returned to Rochester.

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Scope and content

The first image, Burgess & Seymour, a study in black and white, depicts two Canadian Kodak employees, one identified as draftsman F.A. Seymour and the other as R. Ainslee Burgess. They performed a skit originally performed in the Canadian Kodak Minstrel Show of February 17-18, 1921, which was, according to an included clipping, repeated at a bazaar held by the Toronto Technical School. The skit consists two easels, on which the two performers have drawn sketches of different Kodak girls. One of the performers (Burgess) is in blackface, as part of the Minstrel variety show performed occasionally during the 1920's by Kodak employees as part of the Kodak Athletics Association (KAA) activities.

The second image is a group portrait of the Kodak minstrel troupe consisting of 29 men in black face and their accompanying 7 musicians and conductor. They performed at the same event as Burgess and Seymour, February 1921.

Minstrel shows are style of variety show, most popular during the late 19th and early 20th century, in which white performers use make-up and costumes to depict stereotyped caricatures of southern African Americans. The genre originated in the United States, but Canada had its own troupes and touring companies, and the format was popular with schools, community groups, and religious organizations.

Notes area

Physical condition

Both photographs are in good condition; however, the mount board for Burgess and Seymour was at some point cut from its original 10.25 inch height. The group photograph's mount board is bent and weak at the lower right corner and should not be handled there.

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Open. Records are available for consultation without restriction.

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