In 2017 while searching through junky point and shoot Disney film cameras on eBay, I found an interesting one: “DISNEY ESTATE KODAK CAMERA FROM 1909 KODAK #2A BROWNIE CAMERA DISNEYLAND LOA”. At the end of the auction, I was the only bidder! I could not believe my dumb luck. It arrived with full documentation (which has since been verified).
The camera came from the estate of Diane Disney Miller (Walt Disney’s daughter) who passed away in 2013. The camera was originally owned by Elias Charles Disney (Walt’s Father) and according to the Director of the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline Mo., Walt’s mother Flora was the main photographer in the family with Walt’s brother Roy using on occasion.
The camera was made sometime between September 27 1909 (patent date) to circa 1913 when an improved model was released. It was missing the leather top handle but otherwise in good physical shape. However, the viewing lenses and taking lens were completely clouded over. I carefully cleaned the lenses and lubricated the shutter to get it back to full working condition. I found another Kodak Brownie 2A “B” of the same vintage and used that to replace the missing leather handle.
The camera originally took 116 size film, which was discontinued in the mid-1970s. I used adapted 120 film and counted the number of turns necessary to advance the film properly as no numbers would appear through the original red window of the camera (due to the different film size). The camera has three f-stop settings with a shutter speed of approximately 1/45th of a second. I used Kodak T-MAX 400 speed film and added a medium yellow filter over the front of the lens using tiny dots of silicon to hold it in place (no permanent alterations to the camera).
I decided to take the camera and photograph Walt’s boyhood home and family farm in Marceline, Missouri. Special note, the camera was most likely acquired and used after the Disney family’s farm had failed and they had moved from Marceline. So the camera had no previous history in Marceline but it does now!
The results using the camera were mixed because of light leaks and the T-MAX film becoming stiff and unwinding like a spring inside the camera from the extreme cold at the time, which caused overlapping pictures and multiple exposures. I did, however, get some gems of the house and recreated barn on the former Disney property. There are definitely things I learned and would do differently but I count my experience as an overall success. I included a test shot of my dogs before I left for Marceline and a multiple exposure of the barn that I call unintentional art.
~ Charles Pitts
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