In 1888, George Eastman patented the original box camera and trademarked a brand that would revolutionize the field of photography. The Kodak No. 1 was one of the first mass market-focused cameras, making photography more accessible to the public with its simple design and 100 preloaded frames of film. The box itself was small, and taking a photograph required only a turn of the key to wind the film, a pull of the string to set the shutter, and a press of the button to capture the shot.
With a fixed focal length and no viewfinder to speak of, the instrument could not have been easier to use. After snapping their 100 shots, amateur photographers sent the entire camera back to the factory for film developing, printing, and camera reloading. Fittingly, the tagline for the original Kodak was, "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest.” “The Rest” was really the least they could do, considering the camera cost a whopping $25, and then another $10 every time you wanted to develop and reload the film. In other words, photography in the 19th century was a rich man’s pursuit.
The National Media Museum has a collection of the circular snapshots, which are two and a half inches in diameter. They’re a lovely look at the world some 125 years ago, back when we weren’t all walking around with a camera in our pockets.
[h/t The Public Domain Review]