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That's So Last Century
11/17/2009
Our ancestors caught the shutter bug big time in the 1900s. Use these clues to identify your modern mystery images.

The 20th century saw life-altering inventions such as the television, microwave and computer. But in my book, one revolutionary innovation tops them all: the Brownie camera. Kodak <www.kodak.com> introduced it in 1900 with the whopping price tag of one buck and a promise that "any school-age boy and girl could easily operate it." Consumers agreed — Kodak sold a quarter million Brownies that first year.

Photography changed forever: Once children started snapping pics of their pets, friends and families, so did their moms and dads. Everyone learned to say "cheese!" and the click of a shutter imprinted itself into our brains. The number of pictures families snapped and stored skyrocketed, but people rarely paused to give them labels. How do I know this? Family historians are submitting these photos — some taken as recently as the 1970s — to my online Identifying Family Photographs column <www.familytreemagazine.com/photos/current.htm>. Identifying these recent images is different from working with older photos: For one thing, the size and shape of a 20th-century image doesn't give you a clear-cut time frame. But you can date your 20th-century photos — if you focus on these six secrets.

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