Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Kodak Girl

Kodak Girl in Holland, 1905 adKodak Girl in Japan, 1905 adIn 1888, George Eastman had developed the Kodak camera, designed to be both affordable and easy to use. And in 1893, at the Chicago World's Fair, he had introduced the "Kodak Girl" as the icon of the new camera's ad campaign.[1]

The Kodak Girl was young, pretty, energetic--an independent, outdoorsy single girl. (Eastman purportedly borrowed the name and concept from the popular "Gibson Girl" illustrations.) The two ads that accompany this post were from the 1905 campaign, and show the Kodak Girl(s) traveling in Holland and Japan.

Japan was an area of particular interest in the US in 1905 due to the emergence of Japan as a world power with its victory in the Russo-Japanese War. And Boston was no exception! From May 1-4, Isabella Stewart Gardner held a huge Japanese bazaar at Fenway Court, as part of a fundraiser for the Sharon Home for Consumptives. And on June 17, 1905, the closing day of the Country Club’s 24th annual race meeting, Mrs. Gardner “wore a handsome gown of black silk, strapped at the shoulders over a yoke of white lace” and was accompanied by “two Japanese gentlemen” in costume.

Illustration Credits and References

[1] The Kodak Girl image would survive until at least 1972, when Cybill Shepherd modeled for the campaign.

I found the two ad images in Advertising Ephemera Collection - Database #A0160, Emergence of Advertising On-Line Project, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

The Holland ad was drawn by Edward Penfield, and the Japan ad by C. Allan Gilbert.

The quotes describing Mrs. Gardner's wardrobe and companions on June 17th appeared in the Boston Globe on June 18, 1905.

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