On September 4, 1888, George Eastman received a patent for his box camera. Photography was by no means a new concept, but Eastman’s new invention made it a fun and reasonably affordable hobby for the masses.
With this simple wooden box, anyone could now take a picture and be fairly certain of the results. For $25 (about $640 today), you could purchase the camera which was pre-loaded with 100 frames of film. Eastman had developed this paper based roll film a few years early, revolutionizing photography and paving the way for a transition from fragile, heavy glass negatives to light, flexible celluloid based film (which he introduced in 1889).
The cameras were marketed with the tag line “You press the button, we do the rest.” And they were true to their word. The cameras were simple and truly “point and shoot” — no focusing, no adjusting. Once all 100 frames were used, the entire camera was returned to Eastman Kodak where the negatives were developed and pictures printed. The camera, loaded with new film, was sent back with the prints. This meant that budding photographers wouldn’t need to master the darkroom developing techniques or bother with finicky chemicals.
Photos taken with these early cameras are fairly easy to spot since they produced round images. The images from first generation cameras (1888) were 2.5 inches in diameter and second generation (1889) cameras 3.5 inches in diameter.