In the early life of photography, cameras (and all the gear that came with them) were large, heavy, and cumbersome. The wet plate processes, the only one available, required the photographer (or an assistant) to do the development. This added considerably to the time, expense, and skill level required to make a “simple” photograph. In 1888 George Eastman invented roll film, then brought forth the Kodak camera and changed the entire face of photography forever. Or at least until they invented digital capture, which once again, changed photography forever.

The Kodak was a handheld camera that was lightweight (a little under two pounds) and was built and distributed with the general slogan of “you press the button, we do the rest”. Thanks to this tiny camera with a fixed focus lens, the market was suddenly opened wide to consumers. Although it was costly for its time at $25 (today that’s around $625) it still was within reach of far more people than before.

An original advertisement for the first Kodak camera.


An original Kodak box camera and its accessories 

The camera came preloaded with enough film for 100 pictures. After the photographer took the images, the camera was mailed back to the factory where the film was processed. The developed negatives were contact printed on gilded edged brown colored card stock and returned to the customer. Customers could request that the camera be reloaded with fresh film–prints included–for an additional $10 (about $250 in today’s money.) George Eastman is quoted referring to Kodak as “a photographic notebook…such a photographic notebook is an enduring record of many things seen only once in a lifetime and enables the fortunate possessor to go back by the light of his own fireside to scenes which otherwise fade from memory and be lost.”


Now, simple, relatively inexpensive cameras were in the hands of the masses. Photography was poised for is first world-altering growth spurt.