Category Archives: Brownie

A visit to Alberta’s Frank Slide Interprative Centre circa 1930 | Case #009

The Camera
I came across a brownie camera. I do see quite a few of them, but this one was reasonably priced and had film in the back. At first I set it back down thinking “what are the chances?” but quickly changed my mind, bought it and took it home.

These cameras, were given away as a promotion for Kodak’s 50th Anniversary, specifically to boys turning twelve in 1930. If you know any 96 year olds, you may want to ask them if they had one.
Half a million were produced and this particular one was made in Toronto.

I had to remove the film in my darkroom in pitch black. It’s likely the camera and film were abandoned because the spool stopped progressing. So I’d have no idea what I had until I turned the lights on.

The Film
What I had was original brownie labeled film (Kodak Verichrome), and an original brownie spool. It could be its first or second roll of film which dates it in the early 1930’s. Not all boys would have received their brownie right in 1930 I’d imagine. It was probably an ongoing promotion until the half a million ran out.

When I first pulled the film out of the water, It looked like there was nothing, but once I held it up to the light, I saw shapes, a sign……AND PEOPLE!

I didn’t get my hopes up too much though, it was pretty obvious this film had been exposed to some light over the years. The viewing windows in the back faded over time.

The Images
These few images I managed to pull off the film did give us enough of a story.
A father, his wife and daughter, mother or mother-in-law (not to mention boy or girl with the camera) are on a road trip, which has at least one stop at Frank Slide. It’s possible they even got the camera while they were on their trip, or just before they left. They drove along the mountains, and stopped at frank slide.

The Frank Slide sign has changed over the years. I found this link to what looks to be the very first sign but if you look close, you see a few differences.

I came across this other one that was placed after 1914 and it looks like the right one, you can easily imagine where the photographer was standing as well.

Anyone know what mountain this is?

Edit: Special thanks to Crowsnest Museum for identifying the image below, of Turtle Mountain


I am always happy to come out of the darkroom with even one, hazy image that allows me to peer into the past. F-Men like Mark Kologi ( will say it’s like looking into something in ones self. I would agree.

A Canadian Farmer and His Wife | Case #007

Case #007: A Farmer and His Wife

The Camera

The No. 2A Folding Autographic Brownie was first introduced November 1915 and was discontinued in 1926. They made a few alterations in that time, and I was able to pinpoint this Kodak Brownie, to about 1920.
I found this old medium format camera at a flea market. When I asked the owner if there was film in it, he opened the back before I could protest. I thought for sure whatever was on there was lost but he assured me it was would up on the one end for the most part. Skeptical, but wanting a camera like this for awhile anyway, I purchased it.
Even though the red plastic view hole on the back was broken, further exposing the film, I was nervous about developing it myself. So I took it to an expert who said he didn’t have spools for this size film.
[rant] There aren’t a lot of professional darkrooms left, and you’d think the remaining ones would carry some oddball sizes just in case, then charge a premium! [/rant]
So with a little brains, and even less tape, I took a Paterson spool and made it slightly wider.

The Film
It takes 116 medium format film, which is pretty massive and the camera itself shoots large, wide negatives. Below I made a comparison to 35mm film.


This roll in particular is Kodak Verichrome Pan, and the manufacture code indicates it was produced in Canada in either 1932 or 1943. Because Kodak reused their codes every 11 years until 1950, I can’t be sure. Neither answer would surprise me based on the image.

The Image

I’m very happy to have even just one photo from this whole extravaganza!
We have a farmer and his wife on the back up a trailer. He’s holding a shovel, so they may be unloading something. The photographer is on something, enough to raise them slightly. Could be a hill, a fence… an automobile! There’s been enough light exposed, trickling in over time to fade out any detail of the faces. The image looks somewhat posed, so they probably know one another.

What follows on the roll of film is what appears to be overexposed frames. The shutter did stick intermittently when I bought it, that seems a good bet. The camera was produced in 1920, and the film manufactures code indicates Canada 1932/1943. Though the image itself screams early 20th century, I don’t see any clues to narrow that time gap.

Thanks to Greg for the comment: “Looks to be a screw type grain auger in the grain storage bin behind the trailer. Screw type grain augers were not available till 1953 so I would think the picture would be late 50s to early 60s, also fits with the type of trailer and wheels on it.”

None the less it’s an amazing example of how resilient film it. Even though the back was opened, the rolled up negatives protected the very first frame, and in this case, seemed to be the only proper exposure before camera failure anyhow….crazy.