The Box Brownie Camera

The Box Brownie Camera

In 1885 George Eastman invented roll film which was to replace the glass plates that had previously been used in big cumbersome cameras. Roll film or "cartridge" film due to its resemblance to a shotgun cartridge is photographic film wound into a spool and protected from being exposed by a covering of paper. This covering allows film to be loaded into the camera in light rather than having to use a dark room making it easy for everyone to use a camera. Photography also borrowed another gun related word - "Snapshot" which is a term meaning to shoot from the hip without careful aim. Also one "shoots" pictures!

In September of that year Eastman registered the trademark of "Kodak". He was fond of the letter K and he and his mother created the name Kodak being short, easy to pronounce, and not resemble any other name or be associated with anything else.

In 1888 the first model of the Kodak camera appeared. It took round pictures 6.4 cm (2.5 inches) in diameter, was of the fixed focus type, and carried a roll of film enough for 100 exposures.

The first Brownie, introduced in February 1900, was a very basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2¼ inch square pictures on 117 rollfilm. With its simple controls and initial price of $1 it was intended to be a camera that anyone could afford and use, hence the slogan, "You push the button, we do the rest." The camera was named after the popular cartoons created by Palmer Cox who was was a Canadian illustrator and author, best known for The Brownies, his series of humorous verse books and comic strips about the mischievous but kindhearted fairy like sprites. The Brownies were like Disney characters inasmuch as they were used to promote other products in advertising - so making them more appealing and sought out.

George Eastman followed the razor and blades industry by selling inexpensive cameras and making large profits from the consumables of film, chemicals and paper.

Different models of the Brownie went on to being made moving from cardboard to Bakelite, some with faux leather coverings of different colours and with different lenses. In total Brownie cameras were in production for 70 years with 125 versions.

Kodak encouraged children to become involved in photography by setting up the Brownie Camera Club and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kodak special cameras were made to be distributed free through Kodak dealers in North America to children who were 12 years old in 1930. This camera was based on the No.2 Hawk-Eye premium camera with tan leatherette covering, gilt fittings and a gold foil anniversary sticker on it's side. It uses 120 film with a picture size of 2¼ X 3¼ inches. There were 557,000 Eastman Anniversary Cameras made.

The box brownie camera photographed above has been passed down to the owner of PiciScan, Mark Syred, by his maternal grandfather who had a lifelong interest in photography.

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