Original Kodak Camera, Serial No. 540

Original Kodak Camera, Serial No. 540

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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
Place Made
United States: New York, Rochester
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
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Mary I. Stroud
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
National Treasures exhibit
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Did anyone use an 1888 Kodak to take pictures at after the Johnstown Flood of 1889?
Did original Kodak camera use 70mm film? The size of the circular image suggests so. Thanks
What is basic optical parameters lens: focal length ?, minimal & maximal apertute number ? minimal focus distance ? degree wide angle of view ?
David Henderson Houston had a patent for a camera that used roll film however roll film had not been invented yet. Hannibal Goodwin was the first with a patent on roll film. "On May 2, 1887, the year Goodwin retired from the church he had served for twenty years, he filed a patent for "a photographic pellicle and process of producing same ... especially in connection with roller cameras", but the patent was not granted until 13 September 1898. In the meantime, George Eastman had already started production of roll-film using his own process." Houston was rather prescient with his patent.
George Eastman did not invent roll film. Eastman bought the patent rights to twenty-one inventions related to photographic cameras issued to David Henderson Houston. Houston filed his first patent in 1881 for a camera that used a roll of film. Houston eventually licensed this patent to the Kodak Company. He received $5,750. Houston also licensed patents for folding, panoramic, and magazine-loaded cameras to Kodak
Eastman didn't Invent the film roll holder. But he did invent and patent photographic film. In 1884, Eastman submitted two patents. Patent 1: Submitted by George Eastman. Patent number: 306,594. Date of filing: March 7th, 1884 Date of Patent acceptance: October 14th 1888 Patent 2: Submitted by George Eastman and William Henry Walker. Patent number: 306,407. Date of filing: May 10th, 1884 Date of Patent acceptance: October 14th 1888 If you could provide evidence to suggest that someone beat him to it in regards to physical photographic film, that would be very much appreciated as I like to have all my facts straight.
Thank you for these information, it helps me to do my project. I'm studying at KFUPM.
Once source I came across said the original camera had a 57mm f/9 Rapid Rectilinear wide angle lens.
According to multiple inflation calculators, the cost of this camera in 1888 has the equivalent buying power as $692.22 in 2017. Just for perspective.
I love this information! I hope that you do not mind me using this in a important project! This information is awesome! Thank you guys!
Has anyone ever determined the f stop, shutter speed and the film speed of the Kodak 1 box camera? The image quality seems quite good, so I would expect that the lens was in the range of f11. The granularity of photos from the camera appear to support a slow ASA, while the lack of movement indicates a decent shutter speed. Thanks

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