Brownie Box Cameras

In 1898 George Eastman asked Frank Brownell, his camera designer and manufacturer, to design the least expensive camera possible while at the same time making it effective and reliable. Eastman realized that if the cost could be reduced that more people, especially children, might take up photography which would lead to future film sales. Brownell came up with the Brownie Camera which Kodak started selling in February of 1900. "The Brownie" was named after the little characters created by the Canadian author and illustrator, Palmer Cox. His verse and entertaining drawings had been highly popular, even "Disney" character like, with children throughout the 1890's. By adopting the name and using the characters in advertising, Eastman, shrewd as always, gained a major marketing advantage. Some would argue that Eastman created a market that was not there before! That in itself would not have ensured the long-term success of the cameras, and thereby film sales, if they had not been of good value and reliable. For the next 80 years the name "Brownie" was synonymous with popular photography. Several generations of famous photographers acknowledged that their interest began through first using a Brownie box camera, which still happens today for future famous photographers as the Gallery on this website will point out. From the first cardboard and wood model in 1900 to the last, a compact moulded plastic cartridge loading pocket camera made by Kodak Limited in 1980, almost 100 cameras bore the famous name.

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