1888 One Hundred Years Ago

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The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9. Visitors crowded into a lumbering steam elevator for the twelve-minute ride to the top of the 555-foot obelisk.

On September 4, George Eastman received a patent for his Kodak camera, enabling the Eastman Company to bring photography within the reach of the unskilled amateur by processing the film for the customer. This simple, fixed-focus camera sold for twenty-five dollars, with a one-hundred-exposure roll of film and a case included. With the “Kodak System,” wrote Eastman, “the mere mechanical act of taking the picture…is divorced from all the chemical manipulations of preparing and finishing pictures.”

The Kodak was a phenomenal success. Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1893 operetta Utopia Limited even featured a chorus of Kodak-wielding girls and two blushing maidens singing, “To diagnose/Our modest pose/The Kodaks do their best:/If evidence you would possess/Of what is maiden bashfulness,/You only need a button press—/And we will do the rest.”

The first issue of National Geographic magazine appeared in October.