100 Years – 100 Objects: Kodak Baby Brownie Camera

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Lisa Rebori, the Museum’s Vice President of Collections. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent our Museum’s history, and our collections of historical technologies, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

baby-brownie-resizedBaby Brownie cameras were one of the many varieties of the Brownie camera made for the Eastman Kodak camera company in the early to mid-1900s. This particular camera, designed by Walter Dorwin Teague in the art deco style, was patented and produced from 1934-1941.

Originally sold for $1.00, the plastic camera ran on 127 film (which was included) and produced 6 x 4 inch images. The Baby Brownie was mainly marketed towards children, and Kodak claimed it was so easy to use that “anybody, man, woman or child, who has sufficient intelligence to point a box straight and press a button” could take successful photographs.

Brownie cameras helped to launch photography as a hobby and the ‘snapshot’ was introduced. Since people no longer needed to understand the technicalities of cameras or the development of film in order to take a picture, cameras became a staple in the American home by the 1950s.

The small size, travel portability, and low cost of the Baby Brownie (developing film cost 40 cents per roll) allowed for a new use of the photographic medium – creating a new window into life in the home, at work, at leisure, and while traveling. Thus, photography was now spontaneous and no longer restricted to the rare family portrait or the work of an artist.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

Looking Back…

In case you were wondering about notable events that happened the weekend of August 29…

Metropolis
Creative Commons License photo credit: eflon

On August 29, 1885, German inventor Gottlieb Daimler patented the world’s first motorcycle. Although an earlier bike had been introduced as early as 1867, the previous model ran on steam. Daimler’s model ran on petroleum, and was essentially a motorized bicycle. The bike was never marketed and sold – it was developed for experimental purposes only.

On August 30, 1836, the city of Houston was founded by Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen. They purchased 6,600 acres along the Buffalo Bayou. They named the city after Texas hero, General Sam Houston.

Kodak Six-20 Flash Brownie
Another early Kodak camera.
Creative Commons License photo credit: John Kratz

On September 1, 1969, the first automatic teller machine was installed in New York. Currently, the most northerly ATM is located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, while the southern most ATM is located at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

On September 4, 1888, George Eastman registers the trademark Kodak and receives a patent for his camera, which uses roll film. However, nobody in his first photograph said the word “cheese.” The roll film also was used by Louis Le Prince, Leon Bouly, Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers to make movies. He sold 100 cameras by 1896; the first sold for $25.