My aunt gave me my Grandmother’s Kodak Brownie camera last November. It turns out it was actually my Great Grandmother’s camera and she photographed my Grandmother as a little girl with it. It’s absolutely incredible to me. I feel this connection that goes back almost a century through this little box camera. Here’s a picture of my Grandmother when she was a young woman taken with a Brownie:
Here’s what I’ve learned via the internet:
The first Brownie went on sale in 1900 for $1.00 and was designed to be as simple and easy to use as possible. The birth of the Brownie = the birth of the snap shot. Kodak sold a quarter million the first year.
Snap shot was a term borrowed from hunting that described an unplanned shot from the hip.
Kodak thought the Brownie would appeal to children so he named it after a popular children’s character, which was often featured in the Kodak print ads.
In 1930 Kodak gave away a special edition of the Brownie camera free to any child who turned 12 that year. (see the ad here)
The really exciting thing about this camera though is that it still works. It uses 120 film, which is readily available. Below are a few test shots I took with it. I love the aspect ratio and I learned that subjects have to be pretty far back to get sharp focus. There are no controls, only a lever to flip a spring loaded shutter. I can’t believe I’m taking photos with my Great Grandmother’s camera! It's at least eighty years old probably closer to 90.