George Eastman (1854-1932) was a man of great accomplishments who was ahead of his time. The visionary founder of the photography company Eastman-Kodak did so much in the fields of photography and business that it is hard to imagine him being able to accomplish so much in the time available to him. Perhaps that was part of the reason he championed a 13-month calendar — an innovation that remained part of Kodak’s company culture until 1989.
The concept for the 13-month calendar came from Moses Cotsworth. He was an advisor for the North Eastern Railway. Perhaps inspired by the role railroads played in the standardization of time zones, Cotsworth hoped to bring some logic to the calendar system. He was bothered by the Gregorian calendar’s penchant for differently-lengthen months and the fact that dates fell on different days of the week.
Cotsworth proposed the adoption of the International Fixed Calendar. The plan called for a year of 13 months, consisting of 28 days in each month and a leftover day at the end of the year. It 13-month calendar with 28 days in each month and a leftover day at the end of each year, known as “Year Day.” It also followed the Gregorian calendar’s rules for leap years.
Support for the International Fixed Calendar gained support among businessmen and intellectuals, gaining peak support in the 1920s. As can be seen in an editorial in the September 1927 issue of The Outlook:
A month is a wholly irrational division of time. It has no relation to anything in astronomy or human experience. It is an inaccurate and varying measure of time that is a constant annoyance in business and a misleading unit in science. It has no religious significance.
A month is nothing but just a bad habit.
When George Eastman heard of the calendar, he became an immediate convert. He implemented the calendar for himself and his business in 1928. He also opened the U.S. office for the International Fixed Calendar League (IFCL) in Kodak’s Rochester, New York headquarters.
Several of Eastman’s contemporaries bought into the idea. Hotelier E.M. Statler, banker George Foster Peabody, and shipping magnate Robert Dollar were just a few who saw the wisdom in such a plan.
Despite its promising start and influential supporters, the 13-month calendar did not catch on. Even so, the Kodak company continued to use it until 1989 — 57 years after George Eastman’s death. “I loved it,” says John Cirocco, a former Kodak employee who worked at the company in the late ’80s as a tech advisor. “It was a major piece of financial applications, and from a financial perspective, it made the ability to compare sales periods a hell of a lot easier. When I first got there they explained it to me and I was like, ‘This is brilliant!’ I’ve tried to recommend it at two places I’ve worked at since then. The feedback is always, ‘We can’t, this [12-month calendar] is how it’s always been done.'”
Read more fun facts about calendars.
Read more fun facts about time.