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Uncle Jack Fultz’s Memories of Carter County: Shooting on the homefront

Photography’s popularity reflected in local ads

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

By the time WWI rolled around, photography as a hobby was firmly entrenched in American society. The Kodak Brownie, which shot a 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ negative on 117 film, was introduced in 1900. It was a roll film format, and in many of the cameras of the era you advanced the film until you saw the next number come up through a small red “window” on the back. That was how you knew you weren’t double exposing the film, since most cameras didn’t have the automatic stop that later film cameras would incorporate. (Or, if you were looking for an artistic effect, how you purposely shot a double exposure by not advancing the film.)

The 35 mm film camera was introduced in 1913, but production was stalled by WWI, and the cameras and film were too expensive for most hobbyist. The most popular camera on the battlefield, at least among American soldiers, was the Kodak VPK, or “vest pocket Kodak.” The camera, which folded flat for stowing in a pocket and featured a pull out bellows design, took 127 film. The 127 film shot a smaller (4.6 cm x 5 cm) negative than the 117 film the Kodak Brownie took, but the camera was also much more compact and easier for soldiers to carry in their kit. Other than size and portability, though, one of the greatest innovations of the VPK was the ability to take notes on the paper back of the film, known as the “autographic feature,” so soldiers could record details of the images they shot.

Regardless of what format they were shooting in, though, photos – both those shot by soldiers in the theatre of war and on the homefront to send with letters to soldiers – were a big part of the war experience, and ads from Kodak and their film developers reflected that. These ads, from the Carter County Herald, show just how ingrained photography had become in American society by 1918, with pharmacy, like the Ideal Pharmacy in Olive Hill, offering developing and printing services.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles drawn from the historical newspaper clippings in the scrapbooks of Jack Fultz. When necessary typographical errors and misspellings in the original have been corrected for clarity. We thank Sally James of Sally’s Flowers in Olive Hill for sharing her uncle’s collected clippings with us and the community. – Jeremy D. Wells, editor, Carter County Times

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