The One That Started It All!
Type: Box rollfilm
Introduced: Feb 1900
Discontinued: Oct 1901
Film size: 117
Picture size: 2 1/4 X 2 1/4"
Numbers made: 245,000
Original price: $1.00
The camera that started it all was a leatherette covered card box with a wooden film carrier. The original had no finder but did have V sighting lines on
top. A clip-on accessory reflecting finder became available from
August 1900. It had a detachable film winding key that I would imagine got lost often. This camera also introduced the 2 1/4" square format.
The first batch of about 15,000 had
push-on box lid backs which proved
unreliable. Most of this first batch
was sent to Kodak Limited and examples
are therefore more common in Europe.
Mar 1900: The back was modified with a bottom hinged back with
a sliding latch on top.
This camera is considered by many experts to be the most important camera ever manufactured. The reason is that it was produced so cheaply that anyone, not just professionals or people of means, could own it. Because it was so simple to use, anyone could operate it right out of the box.
The film was also cheap, even for 1900. For less than $2.00 anyone could buy The Brownie, a roll of film, and get it processed. The February 1900 Trade Circular lists a 6 exposure roll of transparent
film at $0.15, paper-negative film at $0.10, and $0.40 for processing them!
The Brownie also showed the marketing genius of George Eastman. Eastman was first a film manufacturer, but he could see what bringing photography to the masses, especially marketing to young people, via cheap but durable cameras would mean for future film sales and processing. A camera in every home meant alot of film to be sold and processed. He could not have been more correct!
The first Brownie camera was shipped on Feb. 8, 1900 and gave birth to the snapshot.