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Original Kodak Camera, Serial No. 540 | by national museum of american history
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Original Kodak Camera, Serial No. 540





This Original Kodak camera, introduced by George Eastman, placed the power of photography in the hands of anyone who could press a button. Unlike earlier cameras that used a glass-plate negative for each exposure, the Kodak came preloaded with a 100-exposure roll of flexible film. After finishing the roll, the consumer mailed the camera back to the factory to have the prints made. In capturing everyday moments and memories, the Kodak's distinctive circular snapshots defined a new style of photography--informal, personal, and fun.



George Eastman invented flexible roll film and in 1888 introduced the Kodak camera shown to use this film. It took 100-exposure rolls of film that gave circular images 2 5/8" in diameter. In 1888 the original Kodak sold for $25 loaded with a roll of film and included a leather carrying case.



The Original Kodak was fitted with a rotating barrel shutter unique to this model. The shutter was set by pulling up a string on top of the camera and operated by pushing a button on the side of the camera. After taking a photograph, a key on top of the camera was used to wind the film onto the next frame. There is no viewfinder on the camera; instead two V shaped lines on the top of the camera leather are intended to aid aiming the camera at the subject. The barrel shutter proved to be expensive to manufacture and unreliable in operation. The following year the shutter was replaced by a simpler sector shutter in the No 1 Kodak.



After 100 pictures had been taken on the film strip, the camera could be returned to the Kodak factory for developing and printing at a cost of $10. The camera, loaded with a fresh roll of film was returned with the negatives and mounted prints. Kodak advertisements from 1888 also state that any amateur could "finish his own pictures" and spare rolls of film were sold for $2.




Currently not on view



Object Name

camera, box



Date made





Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company



Physical Description

wood (overall material)



leather (overall material)



metal (overall material)



glass (overall material)




overall: 95 mm x 83 mm x 165 mm; 3 3/4 in x 3 1/4 in x 6 1/2 in



Place Made

United States: New York, Rochester



ID Number




catalog number




accession number








National Treasures exhibit



Artifact Walls exhibit



See more items in

Culture and the Arts: Photographic History



National Treasures exhibit



Artifact Walls exhibit



Data Source

National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center



Publication title

Treasures of American History online exhibition



Publication author

National Museum of American History

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Uploaded on August 27, 2013