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Collage of Kodak Amateur Catalogue Covers. 1886-1941

In Cameras > Kodak Cameras > Show & Tell and Books > Catalogs > Show & Tell.
betweenthelens's loves695 of 1685Supermoon! (November 2016 - as seen in central Minnesota)Cased 1/9-Plate Daguerreotype of Unidentified Gentleman. Early 1850s.
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    Posted 5 years ago

    (325 items)

    Acquiring early American cameras is a small part of my collecting activities. Research about the cameras themselves is important to understand their evolution and historical context. Understanding why cameras were made and for whom is important as well to complete the picture (so to speak).

    To this end, a fellow collector and I decided that a complete electronic repository of early Kodak catalogs was needed. After 18 months, October 2011, we completed the exhaustive effort and called it the Kodak Catalogue Project. For the first time, all of the amateur catalogs (we think) as well as a number of professional, international and other catalogs so that almost all Kodak cameras from 1886 through 1941 were scanned … 67 catalogs in all. Assembling a complete set of catalogs, then scanning and processing 3908 pages, was a daunting task … but it was done.

    After creating the collage of catalog covers shown here, I became fascinated with how the look changed over the years. The catalogs started as technical equipment lists and then Kodak’s marketing department kicked into high gear. What can be seen in this collage is a transition from a basic technical listing of cameras to stories and themes about how amateurs will embrace the joys of photography when using Kodak equipment. To this day, no other photographic company put this much thought into a marketing campaign at the catalog level to touch consumers’ emotions.

    From 1898 - 99, covers became more ‘visual’ and each catalogue from this point forward had a specific story to tell to consumers and amateurs. Also observe how the style of the artwork changed over time. The deco years are particularly interesting because Kodak adjusted its trademark name’s font to follow the trend.

    Color was an important part of the catalog’s appeal. While color was used on covers as early as 1898, it wasn’t until 1930 that color pictures of select cameras appeared within to further add appeal. This coincided with Kodak releasing several camera models that could be purchased with different colored body coverings. (Will be the subject of a future post.)

    Finally, it’s interesting to see how Kodak changed its target marketing over the years. From 1900 to 1907 the theme is traveling. Women then became an important part of Kodak’s campaigns which can be seen from 1908 to 1929. Once again, Kodak shifts its focus (pun intended) and from 1930 to 1941 kids and family are the dominant messages.

    All-in-all, it’s a wonderful survey of how one of the world’s great brands kept refining its marketing message over six decades!

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    1. PostCardCollector PostCardCollector, 5 years ago
      OMG! You must have invested YEARS of your life doing this and it has GOT TO BE a most rewarding endeavor now and to be remembered by.
      Three Cheers!! Lois
    2. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Thanks, rockbat!
    3. valentino97 valentino97, 5 years ago
      So interesting - some beautiful visuals on these catalogs!
    4. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Thanks, Lois. It took nearly 400 hours to do the technical work after getting all of the catalogs. The electronic archive I created is completely searchable. To make things easy, I developed a web frontend to access all of the catalogs. The 'collage' you see is actually a partial screenshot of the web frontend. Clicking on a catalog cover opens the scanned document. I also set it up to be able to search for items across all 67 catalogs. This is valuable because, for example, I can find out the year a camera first appeared and when it was no longer listed. That sort of thing. It's a very useful research tool.
    5. kerry10456 kerry10456, 5 years ago
      I'm very impressed, there has been several collectors who have tried to talk me into something similar with "Character" timepieces, I've started/attempted to dedicate the time to do, but don't have the stamina. Congrats on a great job..... Kudos
    6. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Thanks, Kerry. I appreciate that you understand the level of effort it takes to do this type of thing. - Rob
    7. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    8. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    9. kyratango kyratango, 5 years ago
      Fantastic job on that ressource for searchers!!!
      Thanks Rob for your time and sharing :-)
    10. katherinescollections katherinescollections, 5 years ago
      Is there some reason you stopped at 1941? Post a link to your website.
    11. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Hi katherinescollections. Thanks for stopping by.

      The choice to stop at 1941 was not an easy one to make but we had to figure out a stopping point; a balance between knowledge desired and the level of work. It was a somewhat subjective decision. One reason is because the Kodak line of cameras exploded with crazy numbers of models. We also felt that the cameras got pretty boring. Another reason is most of the post-1941 equipment was already well documented and much of the information could be found online. Yet we recognized that most every current and new collector goes through a "Kodak" phase. For them, it’s the early years that were somewhat mysterious and needing the most attention. (Besides, my partner and I prefer really early (i.e. pre-1890) apparatus.)

      Nonetheless, some collectors asked us to go beyond 1941; which would have been magnitudes of additional work. FWIW, for the 18-month effort, 67 catalogs required 3,908 page scans. This generated 7,917 original and processed images and over 11 GB of disk space. The good news was that I could compress everything down to about 1.5+ GB to create a standalone application yet still maintain good quality.

      If there was interest to include later catalogs, we invited other camera collectors to pitch in and make scans using my specifications and, if they did, I would then update the digital library with full search capability. At this point, the project still stops at 1941. But we learned that nearly all collectors were happy with our choice because the majority of questions about earlier Kodak equipment could be answered.

      The project is not online because of costs and storage requirements. We distributed the project on DVDs for many years but they are long gone at this point.
    12. katherinescollections katherinescollections, 5 years ago
      Oh what a shame, it would have been a great resource for collectors.
    13. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    14. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    15. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    16. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    17. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
      Thanks, Perry!
    18. rniederman rniederman, 4 years ago
      Thanks, betweenthelens!

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