It seems that people have always been fascinated by seeing their image printed on a piece of paper that could be shared with friends and family members. We’re certainly familiar with those formal studio shots that show our solemn-faced ancestors propped up in rigid positions for family portraits.
What we may not see often enough are products of the numerous “Kodak parties” that were popular in Oklahoma long before statehood.
In 1899, the local newspaper declared that Kodak parties were “all the rage” in Purcell, since so many groups of young people made the trip to Lover’s Leap to photograph the lovely scenery - and each other.
A report from Stroud in 1906 says that a group of people picnicked near the Creek Nation line and with four Kodaks between them and “exposed 20 plates.” The method was not easy and the effort to take that many pictures must have been quite tiring.
However, once cameras were reduced in size and film developing was handled by the local drug store, Kodak parties became more and more elaborate. Some lasted two or three hours, while others might have a variety of stops and components lasting all day.
Parties of 1910-20 usually included a group, such as a club or class, involved an automobile trip to a scenic area, and ended with food and entertainment. Most were held during the day, because of the need for good lighting, but afternoon parties often ended with late-night dancing and games.
Some parties were held to honor individuals who were visiting the community. Sometimes they were held as part of a high school class celebration, or as a reward for school children with good grades or perfect attendance.
Parties for younger groups were usually short in duration, held locally, included a picnic and were chaperoned.
Apparently, parties were not without some element of danger if a group was tromping around in the country taking pictures of the landscape.
In 1915, a young woman from Blackwell was accidentally shot in the hip while out with her high school class. Thankfully, the injury was minor.
In the summer of 1913, Mrs. Manning, of Caddo, held a very typical Kodak party at her lovely home on Buffalo. It began with ice cream and cake on the lawn. Then, the young ladies who were visiting with her took a drive through “the city” in a friend’s touring car. After their excursion they were treated to an evening of more entertainment and refreshments.
It’s interesting to note that Kodaks could be rented and most dealers also gave classes in photography. They were eager to sell their products and creating confident photographers seemed like the best way to do that.
Reports of Kodak parties can be found through the thirties. And in reality, we’re still having them today.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.