Monday, December 19, 2022

The Kodak Brownie camera

George Eastman’s invention of photographic film camera changed the world. First sold in 1888, the first film camera had a single shutter speed and a fixed-focus lens. The “Kodak” had one hundred exposures loaded into it, but after the photos were taken, the camera had to be sent back to the factory to be processed and reloaded.

By 1900, the company had developed box and folding cameras. The most popular, simple, and inexpensive was the “Brownie” that continued to be sold until the 1960s!

The Brownie was a simple cardboard box camera that had a convex-concave lens and sold for $1 (about $34 today). The roll of film produced two-and-a-half square-inch photographs. It was simple to use, reasonably priced, and Kodak ensured that the film and processing were also within reasonable costs.

The masses loved it!

During the first year of sales, over 150,000 cameras were sold. The following year, Kodak released the No. 2 Brownie that gave larger photographs, a full three-and-a-quarter inch size. The cost of the new and improved camera was two dollars, and it, too, was a success. Between 1901 and 1935, Kodak continued to improve the Brownie with five new models. The Brownies were the first cameras to have a viewfinder, a handle, and use 120 film, and they came in three models—cardboard, aluminum, or a colored-box model.

Soldiers used Brownies to take pictures of war. Children enjoyed them. Parents loved them. A Brownie was even used to take photographs of the RMS Titanic survivors who were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. Indeed, many of the portraits and snapshots we still see of the first two decades of the twentieth century were likely taken with a Brownie.

By the 1930s, Kodak released several unique varieties of the Brownie, including a Boy Scout edition, and by 1940, flash photography made its way into the mainstream with the “Six-20 Flash Brownie.” This state-of-the-art camera used GE bulbs that were automatically synchronized to flash when needed, but the photographer had to carry and change out large, hot, glass bulbs after each flash. By 1957, the Brownie Starflash boasted the first built-in flash.

The Brownie continued to develop and be popular through the ’50s and ’60s. Kodak sold millions of the Brownie 127 because it’s meniscus lens and curved film plane helped bring clarity to the photographs. The Brownie Cresta sported a fixed-focus lens, and the last of Brownie line was produced in South America in 1986. The Brownie II camera used 110 cartridge film for easier access and usage.

As a child, I used to play with a Brownie that I found in my attic. At the time, I thought many of the old things in the attic were “junk,” but now I see them as treasures and write many of my childhood finds into my stories. In Rachel’s Reunion, a photographer uses the professional Century Camera to take a portrait of Rachel. But he more often uses his trusty Brownie. And now you know…the rest of Kodak’s story.

What’s your favorite camera? Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on January 19th for my next post.

About Rachel’s Reunion:

Summer 1904

Rachel Kelly serves the most elite patrons at the famed New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island. She has wondered about her old beau, Mitch, for nearly two years, ever since he toyed with her affections while on Calumet Island, then left for the high seas and taken her heart with him. Now he’s back, opening the wound she thought was healed.

Mitch O’Keefe returns to claim his bride but finds it more difficult than he thought. Returning to work at the very place he hated, he becomes captain of a New Frontenac Hotel touring yacht, just to be near Rachel. But his attempts to win her back are thwarted, especially when a wealthy patron seeks her attention. Who will Rachel choose?

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has nine in her fiction line including Peyton’s Promise. Find out more at



1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today, and Merry Christmas! My mom had a Brownie but I've never tried it. I bought myself a Canon once but hubby liked experimenting with it. Then film and processing film became an issue. Now we just have a small digital camera that works fine. I do miss printed photos though!!