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Kodak's Brownie Camera First Portable Camera

Updated on February 17, 2011

George Eastman was born in 1854 and grew up to be an American inventor. He founded the Eastman Kodak company and invented roll film. This made photography easier and cheaper. Eastman’s invention was the inspiration of motion picture film in the late 1880’s. The name Kodak comes from Eastman’s fondness for the letter K, he wanted a short, catchy name that had k’s in it.

“You press the button and we do the rest.”

Before the invention of the Brownie Camera, cameras were large and cumbersome, not something that amateurs could just use casually. But in 1890, George Eastman changed all that with his inexpensive, do-it-yourself camera.

Unlike older cameras, the Brownie was lightweight and so easy to use a child could use it. It came preloaded with a roll of 100 picture film. Regular cameras used bulky glass plates that had to be processed by the photographer. But with the Brownie, you just took the pictures then mailed the camera back to the factory.

Along with all your developed picture, the camera was returned loaded with fresh film.  These were the first snapshots ever created. The film cost about 15 cents a roll and the camera itself cost only a dollar. The Brownies weighed very little and were made of heavy cardboard and imitation leather.

George Eastman named his invention after Palmer Cox’s brownies, cartoon characters that were popular at the time and were used in early Kodak advertising.

Brownies were sold up through the 1960’s when they were replaced by the Kodak instamatic which was introduced in 1963 and soon replaced Brownies. The Instamatic camera, in turn was replaced by single use and digital cameras.

There were also Brownie motion picture cameras, the inexpensive camcorders of the 1950’s and 1960’s. These were also very popular but less of an innovation that the Brownie camera that sold in the millions.


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