The Mass Production of Memory

Travel and Personal Archiving in the Age of the Kodak

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Tammy S. Gordon

In 1888, the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company offered the first portable camera that allowed users to conveniently take photos, using leisure travel as a primary marketing feature to promote it. The combination of portability, ease of use, and mass advertising fed into a national trend of popular photography that drew on Americans’ increasing mobility and leisure time. The Kodak Company and the first generation of tourist photographers established new standards for personal archiving that amplified the individual’s role in authoring the national narrative. But not everyone had equal access to travel and tourism, and many members of the African American, Native American, and gay and lesbian communities used the camera to counter the racism, homophobia, and classism that shaped public spaces.

In this groundbreaking history, Tammy S. Gordon tells the story of the camera’s emerging centrality in leisure travel across the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and its role in “the mass production of memory,” a process in which users crafted a visual archive attesting to their experiences, values, and circumstances, setting the stage for the customizable visual culture of the digital age.

Cover design by Kristina Kachele Design, llc
Cover photo: Detail of page from an album belonging to Cadaine Hairston documenting a trip to Keansburg Beach in New Jersey in 1924. Robert Langmuir African American Photograph Collection, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.



“The story is complete for all time”
Mass Photography for the Future of History

Chapter One
“One did not ‘take’ a camera”
The Roots of Tourist Photography

Chapter Two
“The World is mine—I own a KODAK”
Marketing Memory and Privilege

Chapter Three
“Side Trips in Camera-Land”
Tourism and the Visual Record

Chapter Four
“When I Send You a Picture of Berlin”
The Memory Emergency of the First World War

Chapter Five
“A visible token”
Expanding the Promise of the Kodak in the Interwar Years

The Legacy of the First Generation of Mass Tourism and Portable Photography