How Kodak Brownie cameras made snapshot photography affordable for millions

Old Kodak Brownie camera with case

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Without a doubt, Kodak Brownie cameras revolutionized the way we took photos in the early 20th century.

Originally selling for just $1 upon its debut in February 1900, the Brownie was a simple camera — essentially a heavy cardboard box with a basic lens — and was intended to bring photography to the masses.

The now-famous slogan “You push the button, we do the rest” was entirely true — with no focus or exposure controls, the Brownie was the original point-and-shoot camera.

Of course, the Brownie wasn’t conceived and designed with any particularly altruistic purpose in mind. George Eastman was not only a brilliant inventor, but a rather clever businessman as well.

Kodak at the time was first and foremost a film company. Eastman figured, quite rightly, that the more cameras that were out there being used, the more film he could sell.

Despite its simplicity, the Brownie was capable of producing good images on its 2-1/4″ square negatives, and photography went from being something only a select few could afford to indulge themselves in, to a popular hobby practically overnight.

By the time Kodak put the Brownie name to rest in the 1960s, millions upon millions of these cameras had been sold, and countless snapshots of daily life captured. – AJW

Vintage girl with an old Kodak Brownie camera


Seeing through a vintage Brownie camera viewfinder

Seeing through a vintage Brownie camera viewfinder


The brilliant little Brownie

Here are three vintage Kodak Brownie ads from 1901:

kodak brownie christmas 1901

kodak brownie dollar

kodak no 2 brownie ad 1901

ALSO SEE: The Kodak Brownie movie camera made home movies affordable – for better or for worse


Antique Kodak Brownie camera – close up view

This is the Number 2-C Brownie Model A

Number 2-C Brownie Model A

Antique Kodak Brownie camera - close up view

Old Number 2-C Brownie Model A

Antique Kodak Brownie camera - close up view

Number 2-C Brownie Model A

Antique Kodak Brownie camera - close up view


How to load film in the Brownie camera

Vintage Brownie camera directions (2)


How long to expose film with this antique Kodak camera

Vintage Brownie camera directions (1)

ALSO SEE: Vintage Instamatic cameras: Flash back to the boxy, iconic cameras that pretty much everyone had in the ’60s & ’70s

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