Bernice Palmer's Kodak Brownie camera

Sometime around her 17th birthday, Canadian Bernice Palmer received a Kodak Brownie box camera, either for Christmas 1911 or for her birthday on 10 January 1912. In early April, she and her mother boarded the Cunard liner Carpathia in New York, for a Mediterranean cruise. Carpathia had scarcely cleared New York, when it received a distress call from the White Star liner Titanic on 14 April. It raced to the scene of the sinking and managed to rescue over 700 survivors from the icy North Atlantic. With her new camera, Bernice took pictures of the iceberg that sliced open the Titanic’s hull below the waterline and also took snapshots of some of the Titanic survivors. Lacking enough food to feed both the paying passengers and Titanic survivors, the Carpathia turned around and headed back to New York to land the survivors. Unaware of the high value of her pictures, Bernice sold publication rights to Underwood & Underwood for just $10 and a promise to develop, print, and return her pictures after use. In 1986, she donated her camera, the pictures and her remarkable story to the Smithsonian.
Object Name
date made
ca 1912
Ellis, Bernice P.
Eastman Kodak Company
Physical Description
wood (material)
glass (material)
plated metal (material)
copper alloy (material)
overall: 5 1/4 in x 4 in x 6 1/4 in; 13.335 cm x 10.16 cm x 15.875 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
Family & Social Life
Sports & Leisure
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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