The Brownie: A Camera for the Masses

We treasure our photos:  birthday parties, barbeques and ordinary days with people we love. When a wildfire burned a few miles from me, I kept the family albums in my car when I drove anywhere. When did our culture change and give us our precious snapshots? In 1900, Kodak launched the Brownie camera.

It was so cheap ($1) and simple to use it was marketed to children. “Brownies” were impish fairies in children’s books by Palmer Cox. Adults used the cameras, too, and enjoyed the little photos (2 1/4 inches square). The camera became enormously popular as ordinary people recorded their lives.

This is a link to a charming site by Kodak, posted in 2000, to celebrate the centennial of the first Brownie cameras. Make sure your sound is on so you can hear people reminisce. You might like the passage about Ansel Adams’ first pictures he took as a boy.