LHM: Jo Cornick’s Snapshots

One of the commonalities we’ve noticed between Josephine Cornick and Ferol Tibbets was their posession of personal cameras. In 1888, the Eastman Kodak Company released it’s first amateur camera. George Eastman’s goal was to make photography “as convenient as the pencil.” By the time Josephine Cornick and Ferol Tibbetts were old enough to shop for cameras, there were at least 8 different Brownie cameras available to the public for $4 or less. The more money you had to spend, the larger the variety of cameras available to you.

The transition from studio photography to personal photography not only increased the number of photographic images the average person had as mementos — it increased the amount of information available from each image. Studio portraits required some investment, and families making that investment dressed in their best clothing and turned their best face to the camera. The final photograph was probably stamped with the name of the studio, but little else in the way of identifying or personal information.
Personal cameras changed the way many people recorded their personal history. Instead of dressing up and trooping down to the local photography studio, camera owners could capture images from everyday life that had meaning for them. Looking at a series of snapshots, or an album filled with snapshots, delivers personal information in a way that studio images do not.
Studio Portrait of William and Anastasia Cornick, with daughter Josephine, ca 1903 Full Record
Snapshot of (l to r) Josephine Cornick, Anastasia Cornick, William Cornick and Emma Cornick, ca 1918 Full Record
Friend of Jo Cornick,
modeling her gym bloomers
ca 1918
Full Record
Friend of Jo Cornick
ca 1915
Full Record

Thanks to their snapshots, we can make some guesses about what Josephine and Ferol valued most based on the things they photographed — friends, pets, family members, automobiles. Snapshots were also used to preserve moments of good humor shared among friends. Snapshots also provide information about things we would never learn through studio portraits — like what girls’ gym uniforms looked like circa 1915, and how a young lady might have dressed to help with farm work.

And we certainly don’t have any studio photographs of swimmers in their swim togs!
Jo Cornick and friend at the beach
ca 1920
Full Record

The downside of amateur photography is, of course, the amateur behind the lens. Not everyone was adept with the new gadgets, resulting in the occasional botched image.

Jo Cornick and three friends
ca 1920
Full Record
But even in the case of this image, we can derive information from what Jo has written on the back. Even with the blurring, we can also tell that these four young women are all dressed in trousers.