Eastman pushed consumer photography to the masses with "special occasion" marketing. The Kodak moment like graduation, baby's first birthday, big deals in people's life to remember and make it worth spending those few extra bucks.
The idea of constant use like a hobbyists was out of reach for the average person.
The golden age in the '80s and '90s was unusual.
I don't know if price increases are good. I understand the manufacturing end of it, as far as cost, but if sales drop even more because of the increases, that can't be good. I am not a pro so I don't earn a living from photography,but if I did, the last thing I would want is increases in film cost. Even as a hobbyist, my hobby has to fit into the family budget. My film sits next to the bacon in the fridge.
There are billions of photos being taken each day, and posted on line each day from cell phones, point and shoots, and D-SLRs. It may not meet your definition of hobbyist, but one can make a very strong case that the golden age of photography is happening this very instant.
I have been an employer rather than an employee most of my life so it is somewhat second nature to keep a fairly close eye on costs and contributory values of things.
I use my truck for business and know almost to the penny what it will costs me to put every mile on it. In fuel alone I'm looking at $125.00 +/- worth every 5 1/2 hours of driving.
If I go on a 5 day photo trip to say the Kootenays (which I do fairly regularly) I will incur costs directly related to the trip of about $1,980.00 plus whatever film I use.
I do tend to use up way more film than most people and have been made aware of this by anyone I have ever gone out photographing with, so I may not be a good example.
If the light is good and the weather cooperates I will use 50 sheets of Ilford 8x10 in the 3 days I have to shoot (the other 2 being travel days).
So my film cost is about 11.2% of the total cost of the trip, it would be about 18.5% if I was using Kodak film and if I was normal and didn't use 5 times as much film as most people my numbers would be 2.46% using Ilford film and 4.34% using Kodak film. This amount is hardly significant as far as I am concerned for a photo specific trip.
"Photography was always - except for a very brief period - a hobby for the wealthy. "
Maybe for advanced hobbiests but it was definately for the masses. Apparently you never shot with a Kodak Brownie 127 or 620 during the 50s and 60s or a disk or Instamatic later on. When I started in retail in the 1957 we charged $0.99 for developing color roll film. If we had had to rely on the wealthy then the store would never had survived and been sold to the May Co.
We should all remember that silver (sort of an important ingredient) has probably quadrupled in price recently, so comparisons to the 1990s are probably not fair. I'm not defending Kodak, I'm just sayin'..........