In 1900, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera, called the Brownie. The Brownie camera, simple enough for even children to use, was designed, priced, and marketed to have wide appeal. It made photography accessible to the masses.
What Was the Brownie Camera?The Brownie camera was a simple, black, rectangular box covered in imitation leather with nickeled fittings. To take a "snapshot," all one had to do was hold the camera waist height, aim, and turn a switch. Kodak claimed in its advertisements that the Brownie camera was "so simple they can easily [be] operated by any school boy or girl" (excerpt from an ad in Cosmopolitan Magazine, July 1900). Though simple enough for even children to use, a 44-page instruction booklet accompanied every Brownie camera.
Making Photography AffordableThe Brownie camera was very affordable, selling for only $1 each. Plus, for only 15 cents, a Brownie camera owner could buy a six-exposure film cartridge that could be loaded in daylight. Kodak promised to develop the film for the camera's owner, rather than the owner having to invest in materials and a darkroom.
Marketed to ChildrenKodak heavily marketed the Brownie camera to children. In ads, the camera was accompanied by the very popular Brownie characters, elf-like creatures created by Palmer Cox. Ads for the Brownie camera appeared in popular magazines, rather than just trade journals. Children under the age of sixteen were also urged to join the Brownie Camera Club, a free club in which they could earn prizes for good photos and receive a Photographic Art Brochure.