Kodak Baby Brownie camera

Kodak Baby Brownie camera from 1934
Kodak Baby Brownie camera designed by Walter Dorwin Teague from 1934

I bought this little camera in a junk shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle, USA. I'd been looking for one of these for many years. It turned out to be quite a bargain. I don't remember paying much more than the $1 that they cost back in 1934. The guy in the shop assured me it still worked.

It is a Baby Brownie camera from 1934. The design is by Walter Dorwin Teague. Teague was an industrial designer who helped pioneer the design profession. Kodak's philosophy was to sell film rather than cameras. They made their cameras as cheap as possible to make photography accessible to as many customers as possible. Simplicity of design and ease of use were very important.

Because Kodak sold millions of cameras, it was possible to absorb the costs of one America's leading designers. The Baby Brownie was Kodak's cheapest camera, it sold for $1. They sold four million of them.

The camera design features streamlining. The adverts said 'smooth, modern streamline'. It had a fashionable smooth shape inspired by aircraft design. Style was very important to Kodak. It was what we would call a designer product today, but was affordable to anyone who wanted to buy a cheap camera.

The camera body is made from Bakelite, an early plastic. The folding view finder is aluminium. Once the molds were set up for mass production, it would have been simpler to make than Kodak's original Box Brownie.

The Baby Brownie had a carrying case which could be fixed to the handlebars of a bicycle or to a belt.

Kodak sold these in the UK and in the USA. They first went on sale in 1936 in the UK for five shillings. In today's money that would have been £13.

Today they are rare. It was superseded by better cameras and thrown out.

How much is it worth?

These cameras sell for between £5 and £15 on eBay in the UK.

In the USA these cameras can fetch a bit more. Mint examples in the original box can go for around $30.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history