History

Eastman History

More than 125 years ago, Eastman introduced the first electric cloth-cutting machine, which allowed the clothing industry to evolve from the manual drudgery of cutting to a modern operation. Today, the company continues to deliver engineering-based solutions that make real differences to facilities using new and high-tech materials as well as traditional textiles.

As a fifth-generation, family-operated business, Eastman is devoted to excellence. Our promise to craft reliable, quality, American-made solutions means that your Eastman product is guaranteed to perform and ensure your production requirements are realized. With our excellent reputation built into every machine, you can rest assured knowing you’re not just buying a product — you’re partnering with a team dedicated to your productivity and performance.

Our History


1888

Eastman introduces first fabric cutting machine

Over a century ago, a Canadian inventor named George Eastman developed the first fractional electric motor that could be mounted on a platform that would serve as a cutting base. The motor was attached to a reciprocating knife mechanism and the first electric fabric-cutting machine was born--The Eastman. The Eastman revolutionized the apparel industry with a tool that ended tedious manual cutting-room labor. Countless patents and improvements later that have all stemmed from the first cutter built in 1888. Eastman’s current product line includes over 100 machines that are sold worldwide and are the standard by which all cutting machines are judged.


1898

Stevenson family acquires full ownership

Charles P. Stevenson was one of the original investors in George Eastman’s new company and after 10 years acquired full ownership. After five generations, the Stevenson family still owns and runs this thriving family business. With the family not only involved in ownership but also operations, the attention to detail, product innovation, and service that have always been Eastman’s hallmarks remain strong today.


1900 -1920

Eastman expands internationally with sales agents established in Europe, South America, South Africa

Charles Stevenson was only at the helm for seven years when he died in 1908 and his 22 year-old son, Wade Stevenson, took over leadership of the growing company. Wade utilized independent dealership networks to expand sales across the country. By 1921, he set his sights internationally and set up sales agents in Europe, South America and South Africa. To earn the worldwide reputation as the manufacturer of choice for the apparel industry, Wade combined strong distribution with innovative product development, unparalleled quality and exceptional customer service. Under Wade’s leadership many new patents were developed such as the automatic sharpener, continuous self-feeding oiling system and unique electrical connectors.


1920 - 1965

Intense product design phase

  • Increased power and decreased weight of motors
  • Expanded range of cutting machines to emerging markets
  • Invented automatic sharpener for straight knife
  • Introduced the Chickadee® hand-held electric shear
  • Released the Blue Streak®; currently more than 500,000 sold worldwide

1965 -1980s

C.P. Stevenson Leads through Acquisitions

In 1968, Wade Stevenson passed the presidency on to his son C.P. (Chuck) Stevenson, who led Eastman through a period of continued advancement. In 1974, Eastman acquired Cutting Room Appliance Corp. (CRA), the world’s leading manufacturer of cloth spreading machines. This acquisition made Eastman the industry’s unmatched source for apparel manufacturing and fabric cutting for all types, providing a single source for both material handling and cutting machines.


1988

Robert Stevenson and Wade Stevenson take over ownership as fourth generation.

In 1988, Chuck Stevenson’s sons Robert L. Stevenson, then president of Eastman Machine Company, and Wade Stevenson, then president of Eastman Export (the international arm), bought the company from their father. Under the new leadership, Robert and Wade envisioned production of a complete line of cutting and material handling equipment, so their customers would have the most economical solution for every stage of the cutting room production cycle. This initially included such products as the Blue Streak II with its patented oiling system, hand-held rotary shears, heavy duty manual cutters, and advanced material handling solutions. However, in order to successfully accomplish their goal, Eastman needed to expand with automated solutions for the rapidly expanding market for cut fabrics that are utilized in many diverse industries.


1995

Automation Brings New Industry Exposure

In 1995, Eastman acquired North Technology Systems from the North Sails Group, the world’s largest sail maker. North developed this subsidiary to build computer controlled cutting machines for use in North’s sail lofts. The cutters and software were integral components in establishing North’s world leadership position in sail making. Because North pioneered the use of Kevlar® and Mylar® in marine applications and found niche markets in aerospace, automotive, carpet, insulation, and vinyl cutting applications, this acquisition enabled Eastman to expand into new industries such as the composite and industrial fabric markets where materials like the following are cut:

  • pre-preg composites
  • carbon fiber
  • upholstery
  • fiber-fill and foam
  • vinyl
  • fiberglass
  • kevlar
  • safety materials
  • mesh
  • canvas

Eastman created proprietary software for the industrial markets that includes system control software, design and nesting software and industry specific application software.


2004

Eastman Competes by Manufacturing Abroad

In 2004 Eastman Machine Company expanded its operations by opening a factory in Ningbo, China. Under the leadership of Wade Stevenson, the Pacifi c Rim and China have become important markets for all of Eastman’s products. The Ningbo factory provides important support and capacity to supply not only the world famous Eastman Blue Streak to these increasingly important markets, but also Eastman’s line of automated cutting systems.


2008

Comprehensive Equipment Line

In 2008, the company acquired Saber Industries, emphasizing Eastman’s role as a complete resource for material handling, spreading and cutting equipment. The acquisition allowed Eastman to offer a comprehensive package for front-end preparation of the fabric, capable of handling up to 2,200 pound rolls of material for spreading.


2013

Major Milestone in Modern Day Manufacturing - 125 Years in Business

The company is proud to honor the outstanding contributions and energy of the people who have been a part of our history, and the current employees that are inspiring our future. The continued focus on identifying and solving modern manufacturing problems has positioned the company well for the future; we plan to continue to provide reliable products, services and solutions that benefit our customers.


PRESENT DAY

1000+ automated systems installed worldwide and tens of thousands of manual machines in over 100 countries.