In our collections we have a somewhat unusual device: a police fingerprinting camera used by the Wilmette Police Department. This highly specialized camera was manufactured by the Folmer & Schwing (Graflex) division of Kodak in 1921. The Wilmette Police Department used this camera, which takes closeup images of fingerprints, from approximately 1921 to at least 1937.
We’re not sure how often the camera was used or how effective it was in nabbing criminals, but we do have a few images it took. At the scene of a 1937 robbery in Wilmette, police used this camera to capture fingerprints left on a clock.
Explore the manual, also in our collection, and find out more about how the camera worked.
Much of the research on this specialty camera came from the George Eastman Museum. If you have an old Kodak at home, are interested in cameras and photographic technology, or just want to dive deeper into the history of photography, you can browse around the Eastman Museum’s collections online. You can even tour their collections storage space virtually, without leaving your living room.