Vest Pocket Kodak (1912 - 1914)
This 1912 Vest Pocket Kodak really fits in a vest pocket, or any other pocket. That is why it was a favorite of the soldiers of World War 1. It's not so easy to judge the camera size in the video, but it is quite small, measuring only 1 x 2 3/8 x 4 3/4inch (2.5 x 6 x 12 cm). It took pictures of 1 5/8 x 2 1/2 inch (4 x 6.4 cm) on roll film.
The Vest Pocket Kodak was introduced in April 1912 and replaced by the Vest Pocket Autographic Kodak in 1915. During this short period 200,000 were produced. Its price with a meniscus lens was $ 6 and with a slightly better Kodak Anastigmat $12. A Special version was also sold for $ 25 and this one had a very good quality lens.
My example in the video is an early 1912 model, but the camera can be found in many variations. Two big changes were:
- the introduction of the autographic VPK's in 1915, allowing to write on the film when it was still in the camera.
- the change to a drop bed style during the mid 1920's instead of the former lazy tongs construction.
The VPK is not a groundbreaking innovative device. There were a number of earlier small vest pocket size cameras made by other manufactureres, but Eastman Kodak has managed to sell nearly two million copies. The camera is part of the development of family photography and the maintenance of a daily archive in photo form. Kodak also responded to the needs of various target groups: a basic camera, a luxurious gadget and a high-quality device for the ambitious amateur. During World War I, the VPK was positioned as the soldier's camera, which on the one hand enabled the soldiers to keep a photographic record of the “adventure” and, on the other hand, was indispensable in maintaining a close relationship between family and friends at home and the soldier in the war zone.
The VPK was advertised as a part of your wardrobe. You should always have it with you, just like you always had a watch in your pocket. This way you would never miss a snap for your photographic diary. Ad in Kodakery 1917.
Vest Pocket Kodak with a tiny "Kodak V.P.K. Album". The album can contain 12 VPK photos. The size of the album is 2 2/3 x 3 3/5 inch (67 x 90 millimeter). I can well imagine that many a World War One soldier took to the trenches such a small album with photos of his beloved ones, tucked away somewhere in his pockets.
Christmas time ad for a luxury VPK set.
McClures magazine, December 1913.
Italian World War One ad saying that every officer and soldier should get himself a VPK.
Below both sides of a Kodak leaflet in my collection, dating from late 1914 or early 1915 and addressing French soldiers that were going to the battle fields of World War One. Title: Le Kodak du soldat. Size 38 x 43 cm or 15 1/6 x 17 1/6 inch.
These graphics show the number of VPK's that were ordered by the Eastman Kodak Co. to be manufactured.
The first batch was ordered in December 1911.
Source: Production order book (Moyes list 1921). Numbers after 1920 are unknown.