The No.1 Folding Pocket Kodak was introduced in the closing days of the 19th Century, December 1899, along with the type 116 rollfilm. In its various forms this camera was in production until April 1915 and sold over 200,000. The example shown here is the first variation of the model available from December 1899 through June 1905. It had a leather covers lens holder with built-in Eastman Automatic shutter. This example also has the early reflecting finders suggesting that it was built prior to April 1900 when the brilliant finders were used.
The body was crafted from wood with a light weight aluminum cover. The spring-loaded scissor struts are strong and positive.
In 1905, the Model B appeared for a very brief time (this camera is being prepared to be photographed and will be added to this page). Subsequently, a Model C (1906-1909) and Model D variations would be brought out by Kodak, each having several improvements over its predecessor. In the U.K. alone, there were over 15 variations with different shutter and lens combinations.
The red Russian leather bellows are still light-tight and flexible after more than 100 years although darkened after having been treated with some kind of oil by a well-meaning previous owner (never use any type of leather oil or shoe polish on red leather bellows).
The red leather was generally chromate-tanned leather from Russian suppliers which had the property of being able to be brilliantly dyed, usually with red for use on cameras. This kind of leather is very soft and supple with little tendency to dry or harden under normal conditions. The tanning process imparts a resistance to molds and such leather bellows can last for much more than a century. Cleaning is limited to a damp cloth and since the dyes are water soluble, a damp cloth will tend to brighten the color. Never use any leather products intended to soften, moisturize, "feed", or treat shoes leather, saddles, etc. They will cause the brilliant color to irreversibly darken.
The most serious problem with these bellows is in the underlying support which is often cardboard strips and cloth backing. The adhesive holding these together will eventually fail and the bellows will assume a baggy appearance. It's time for a restoration at that point if the appearance is unacceptable. The bellows can be restored using the original red leather, and the underlying strips as templates for newly cut ones, normally made out of a more durable thin plastic. Although very time consuming, the results can be quite stunning.