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.



6 thoughts on “The Brownie: A Camera for the Masses”

  1. I had a Brownie camera. It was wonderful. I loved it. And I still have some photos taken with that camera. Kodak film was the best and holds up over the years. The Brownie was such a nice, square item to hold & peer into, and somehow as familiar in a child’s hand as a View Master toy stereoscope.

  2. I have so many prints, secured in photo albums, which I dust once a year when spring cleaning my entertainment center. For the rest of the year, they go unnoticed. Unfortunately they do fade over time. I think the digital age version is superior in that aspect. Also the ability to delete the failures and edit the successes makes for economy of resources. And there’s no waiting for the drug store to deliver your pictures. In spite of my age, I do like many aspects of current technology but sure am glad I have those oldies to see me without wrinkles and gray hair and my kids and pets from years gone by too quickly.

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