Monday, July 1, 2013

Reflecting on the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works blog

Since starting the Dueber-Hampden Watch Works blog in January 2010 as part of my sabbatical research, there have been roughly 13,000 blog visits.  The visitors are from nearly every state, as well as around the world, including Britain, Canada, Germany, and Russia.  What started as an experiment to work with social media has taken a surprising turn to talk with watch and clock collectors about the history of a watch company that I thought would  long since be forgotten,  and quite safe to explore.  In addition to uncovering some unknown artifacts about Dueber-Hampden, this project has enabled me to take the knowledge learned and apply it to my service-learning class projects within our community.  I appreciate all the encouragement and assistance from watch collectors,  and those people who have a special interest in the history of Dueber-Hampden. 

National Watch and Clock Collectors show in Dayton, Ohio 2013

Next week I head to the National Watch and Clock Collectors show in Dayton, Ohio.  I have to tell you I have been away from my blog for awhile working on another project.  I curated a historical photography exhibit and collection about George Eastman and the Kodak box camera.  Does it tie in with my Dueber-Hampden Watch Works blog.  Well yes it does. 

I found that when John C. Dueber was moving his combined Hampden Watch Works from Springfield, Massachusetts, and his Dueber Watch Works from Newport, Kentucky, to Canton, Ohio in 1888, this coincided with George Eastman unveiling his first Kodak Box camera. 

Out of the Box...Camera

Pinterest Research
The exhibit, Out of the Box...Camera, is part of a researching award, and artistic grant I was given.  This project and exhibit followed a three-prong approach.  Firstly, I used Pinterest to collect online research.  Pinterest, the newest of electronic social media, allows a person to research and "pin" an image to an electronic board for future reference, much like a person who would clip images or articles from magazines or newspapers and return to them later for inspiration, or an assignment for a class; Pinterest allows a user to research websites, blogs, or on-line sources and electronically "pin" or store those "pins" for later use.  Once a person's research begins, the researcher can then later click on the image that was pinned and return to the original website, blog, or research site. 

Secondly, the exhibit itself depicted images of everyday life in the 1920s to 1940s, and is comprised of a small sampling of box camera negatives from a private collection.  

Finally,  the exhibit followed the history of the George Eastman and the box camera, and attempts to show the significance and importance of the box camera’s role in photography history. 

Photography preceding the box camera included daguerreotypes, mirror-like images made from 1839 to the 1850s.  A successful photograph required that people stay perfectly still for nearly fifteen minutes as the exposure was made.  Many of those old photographs did not depict happy people or smiling faces, but stilted poses of men and women, or children gathered around parents.  Those photographs were quite expensive and cost between two and five dollars each.

Several different types of photographs were used from 1856 to the 1920s.  With its photographic emulsion spread over metal, the tintype photograph was less expensive and more delicate than the daguerreotypes.  There was also the cabinet card, a studio-mounted photograph that was used mainly for advertising.  Finally, there was the convex crayon portrait, a less expensive image that was expensive to frame. 

This photograph taken of Dueber-Hampden Watch Works after a cyclone damaged and destroyed part of the newly constructed factory, is an example of a photographic cabinet card that was used to advertise a business. 
Was the box camera important, yes, because what George Eastman's box camera did was to take photography out of the studio and bring it into the home, and the box cameras gave rise to the amateur photographer.  No longer would photography be just for the elitist photographer, now photography was allowing the average man to record his own history

Eastman's first box camera were still pretty pricy at $25.00 for a camera and a roll of 100 photographs.  This equates to about $600.00 in today's dollars.  That was still a pretty steep price for the average family whose monthly income averaged about $225.00.  Eastman at first thought those artisan photographers, who were using glass plates in their cameras would convert to his flexible film.  When this didn't happen, Eastman knew that he had to create a camera for the masses.  In 1900 Eastman introduced the Brownie camera. 

The Kodak Brownie Camera

The Kodak Brownie Camera gets its name from Palmer Cox's brownies.  Cox,  a Scottish illustrator and author from Quebec, Canada, creatively combined his passion for the arts with his work.  When he was not travelling, Cox secured employment constructing buildings and train cars, and it was on the sides of barns that many of his illustrations were composed.  In 1874, Cox began to contribute illustrated stories to written publications.  One of his earliest works, Brownies, was published in 1879.  “Brownies” referred to a group of mischievous, little men who sought adventure, each of whom had distinctive characteristics.  It was not until 1881 that the characters, who originated from Scottish folklore, were printed in final form.  Shortly thereafter, the Kodak Brownie camera was named for the Brownies, and Eastman Kodak used images of the Brownies to market its first Brownie camera in the 1900s.

George Eastman felt the Brownies would attract children to his products, so he used the Brownies in his advertisements.  When the Brownie camera appeared on dealers’ shelves, it cost one dollar and its box was decorated with drawings of Brownies to enhance its appeal to children.  Eastman’s strategy was so successful that, in one form or another, the Brownie camera line remained in production for nearly 80 years.                                                                  (Sources: and

Until George Eastman invented the box camera in 1888, and then pushed its widespread use into the 1900s, the images and representations of the world belonged to artists skilled in painting, or the professional photographers with their cumbersome cameras.  With the advent of the Kodak No. 1 box camera, the everyday man could become the recorder of his family’s history.  (Source: SnapShot)

George Eastman encouraged amateur photographers to take a Kodak camera whenever they traveled as well as to use a box camera at home to record family events.  He directly encouraged photographers to use their cameras on the farms so much so that Kodak produced a free book called "Kodak on the Farm."  (Source: Duke University Libraries, Digital Collections.)

Saturday Nights on the Town
One of the box camera negatives in the Out of the Box ...Camera exhibit that illustrates how George Eastman's box camera took photography out of the studio and put it into the hands of the average man who could record his own history.   This photograph was taken on my grandfather's farm around the late 1920s. 

Later in Life

Despite his wealth and fame, George Eastman was a modest man who was rarely photographed himself.  It was not uncommon for him to go unrecognized as he walked down the streets of Rochester, New York.  Later in life, Eastman was crippled with pain and progressing disability.  His employees watched as he shuffled around the Kodak headquarters and often times found him propped up against a wall in excruciating pain.  Eastman was quoted as saying, “I just want to fade away, not go out with a bang,” and on March 14, 1932, George Eastman ended his life at age 77.  He left behind a simple note with the message, “My work is done.”  (Source: Elizabeth Brayer, George Eastman)  

An inventor, visionary, and philanthropic benefactor, George Eastman changed the field of photography by creating his simple little box camera.  With its flexible film, this single invention shifted the marketing of photography from solely professional photographers to amateurs. (Source:

By George Eastman’s foresight and unconventional approach, photography was put within the reach of every human being who desired to preserve a record of what he or she witnessed.   George Eastman allowed average men and women to record their own history, whether traveling, farming, working, or doing simple chores, and share that history with others. 

Eastman said, those photographic images are an enduring record of the many things seen only once in a lifetime; collections of photographs enable their fortunate possessor to revisit scenes of his or her life which might otherwise fade from memory and be lost forever. - George Eastman - 1900 - speaking of the Brownie camera. (Source: George Eastman House, 1000 Photo Icons).

Well this is what I have been working on for now, but  hopefully I can concentrate a bit more on my Dueber-Hampden blog. 

See you at the National Convention.      


1 comment:

  1. much like a person who would clip images or articles from magazines or newspapers and return to them later for inspiration, or an assignment for a class; Watch Collector