Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Dakota Invention


In May of 1930, F. A. Maser, proprietor the Glen Ullin Pharmacy, placed an ad in the local newspaper stating that he had received a limited number of new cameras and rolls of film from Kodak, and that he would be giving these cameras away to any lucky girls or boys who turned twelve in that year. The cameras were free, to be given away in the month of May until the stock ran out. "Boys and Girls who want to get in on this treat of Mr. Maser and the Eastman Kodak company must act at once," the ad proclaimed.

This promotion was part of a special celebration for the Eastman Kodak company; it marked the company's fiftieth anniversary, stemming back to when Eastman invented an emulsion-coating machine, enabling him to mass-produce photographic dry plates. He began commercial production in Rochester, NY, in 1880.

The company name, Kodak, was plucked from the name of Eastman's home state – North Dakota. But, in addition to Eastman, another North Dakotan also contributed to the company’s great strides – David Henderson Houston, an inventor from near Hunter, northwest of Fargo. Houston dabbled in several areas, even developing blue stem wheat, but he was very interested in photography and did quite a bit of work with cameras.

Houston took out his first patent on a camera when he was 26, and he continued to work on his invention, eventually coming up with an idea for a more portable camera. Together with George Eastman, who encouraged and worked with Houston, they introduced the first Kodak camera in 1888.

It was a pivotal point for the company, and brought prestige and pride to many North Dakotans. The invention made photography more mainstream, marking the "birth of snapshot photography."

On this date, as local kids enjoyed the camera giveaway, the Glen Ullin News reminded its readers of the local connection, stating: "When a lot of North Dakota 12 year old youngsters were given their gift cameras... they would have been interested to know that the present which was made them is the invention of a former North Dakotan. ... Truly, no children are more entitled to their 12th birthday cameras than those of North Dakota."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Glen Ullin News, p1 and 5, May 2, 1930


Glen Ullin News, p7, May 23, 1930