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August 1999

kodak ad - click for larger image
A Kodak Camera advertisement appeared in the first issue of The Photographic Herald and Amateur Sportsman, November, 1889. The slogan "You press the button, we do the rest" summed up George Eastman's ground breaking snapshot camera system.

George Eastman introduced his KodakTM camera in 1888 and revolutionized popular photography. The Kodak camera was small, hand held, inexpensive and, for the first time, made especially to hold a roll of flexible film. Prior to this, light sensitive chemicals captured the black-and-white negative images on pieces of glass. Large cameras were used to hold the photographic plates and a tripod was needed for support.

For ordinary Americans, photography consisted of posed portraits in a professional photographer's studio. The Kodak camera allowed the average person to take photographs of their families, their homes, their surroundings. It inaugurated the snapshot era of do-it-yourself photography. Awarded a medal at the Photographers' Annual Convention as the photographic invention of 1888, thousands of $25.00 Kodak cameras sold during the first year.

By 1889 celluloid, a type of plastic, replaced the paper of the first flexible film base. Another unique feature for the time was that the amateur photographer returned the unopened camera to the Rochester, New York, factory. There the film negatives were processed and the 2 1/2 inch circular images were printed on paper and mounted on cardboard. The camera was then re-loaded with an unexposed roll of flexible film and returned to the customer with the processed photographs and negatives. This cost $10.00 and produced 100 snapshots. This activity became so popular that the term "Kodaking" soon meant a fun outing to take snapshots.

George Eastman eventually changed the name of his company to Eastman Kodak so popular did his Kodak snapshot camera and later models like the Brownie, become.

The #1 Kodak. On display in Henry Ford Museum.

click for larger image of kodak print
Photograph and verso of man in a rocking chair taken with first Kodak camera. ID 81.1.40. Click on image to zoom in!


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