Thursday, 29 May 2008

Novelty photos - a photo booth with a difference

Photo booths were popular for much of the 20th Century. The first such device was invented in the late 19th Century, with Mathew Stiffens filing his patent for an "automatic photography machine" in 1889, only four years after the first commercially viable coin-operated vending machine was brought out by Percival Everett. They mostly produced tintypes, and were a qualified success because they needed frequent repair and changes of chemicals. The first of the reliable self-operated photo booths along the lines of the modern concept, i.e. a small cubicle with a curtain covering the background and entrance, were operated in New York in the mid-1920s.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

This example of a paper print (46.5 x 103 mm) from a photobooth introduces a novelty which I've not seen before, attempting to capture a niche in the market. As well as producing an almost instant photo of the customer, it also captures the date - 10 September 1935 - and the weight of the subject, in this case almost 8 stone 12 pounds. It's not clear how much the snapshot cost, but it couldn't have been much, because the bottom of the print advertises, "Why not have it enlarged? Only 3d."

Further Reading & Browsing.

NY Times Video: The History of the Photo Booth
Photobooth Self-portrait by Andy Warwhol at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wade's Photobooth Gallery
The Photobooth Blog
Photobooths - Retroland


  1. How ODD! I have never seen one of these! I suppose it didn't become very popular because the ladies might not care to have their weight known. I suppose they could just cut that part off before the picture was displayed. Good one, thanks for the link!

  2. No, I've never seen anything else like it either, and don't expect to.

  3. Hi Brett
    Thanks for sending me to your blog. It looks fantastic. I'm looking forward to exploring further. Have you looked at the link to the guest post David Simkin from Sussex PhotoHistory wrote for my blog? It is at the bottom of the page where you left this link. It has as much information as I have ever seen about the Photoweigh machines. His blog is wonderful! Best wishes, Katherine Griffiths


Join my blog network
on Facebook