There's Cheer in the Pictures from Home

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There's Cheer in the Pictures from Home


By: Eastman Kodak Company

Date: November 21, 1918

Source: Eastman Kodak Company. "There's Cheer in the Pictures from Home." Ellis Collection of Kodakiana, Duke Special Collections Archive. Courtest of The Library of Congress.

About the Author: The Ellis Collection of Kodakiana was created by Wayne P. Ellis (d. 1994). A Pennsylvania engineer and collector of photographs, Ellis concentrated on advertising and marketing items. He acquired virtually every Eastman Kodak ad that appeared in general interest magazines up to the 1980s.


The invention of photography made it possible for ordinary people to afford accurate likenesses of themselves and their loved ones. It was a privilege that had been formerly reserved only for the rich. Photography soon became an enormously popular pastime as families filled photographic albums.

Eastman Kodak began in 1882, when George Eastman invented a machine that did not require photographers to apply fresh chemicals to a metal plate in order to take a single picture. By making photography simple, he began the age of amateur photography. Before Eastman, the photographic process involved using dangerous chemicals to produce a slightly wet exposure on a glass photographic plate. In 1888, Eastman introduced the Kodak, the first camera aimed at the consumer market. It was a small, handheld machine that contained a roll of film with 100 exposures that cost $10 to develop at Eastman Kodak laboratories. With the Kodak, anyone who could press a button could take a photograph. By 1896, 100,000 Kodak cameras had been manufactured.

During World War I, photography was promoted as a way of boosting morale. The fighting ended on November 11, 1918, shortly before the publication of this advertisement for Eastman Kodak cameras.



See primary source image.


The snapshots taken with Kodak cameras are a rich mine of information about families of the past. The photographs that a family accumulates are a record not only of what the family members looked like but also of many aspects of family life. They offer clues about how families have changed over time. Despite the suggestion in the Kodak advertisement, photographs of ordinary activities such as mowing the lawn are quite rare. Most pictures depict a special event such as a wedding or vacation. Others show posed family members in front of a house or seated in a room. The arrangement of people, with the honored person typically seated in bygone years, shows the values and expectations of the family.

The popularity of photography in documentng the family rose with the evolving technology. The rise of digital cameras has made it possible to take photographs without wasting film. As a result, more photographs are being taken as photographers can easily edit out a bad shot. While not all of these photographs are developed, a large number are being saved in computer files. In 2003, the Digital Photography Review estimated that over fifty million digital cameras were sold worldwide in 2003. Digital historians of the future are likely to have more family images to examine.



Cameron, Ardis, ed. Looking for America: The Visual Production of Nation and People. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005.

West, Nancy Martha. Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.