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The King of the Kodak Brigade

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 30, 2013

The King of the Kodak Brigade

By H.R. Merrill, Oneida Academy, Preston, Idaho

I am the King of the Kodak Brigade;
My army is ten million strong;
We carry no guns, nor pistols, nor swords,
When we go a-marching along;
We go with a smile, for the earth is our own –
And is pleasant as true hearts can make it;
And if some bright spot seems worthy to us,
There’ll be none to oppose when we take it.

Most of the soldiers have kodaks all set –
A corps in each land can be found;
They’re dashing young men, and fair, winsome maids,
You’ll meet them the big world around.
Their munitions of war they carry on spools,
And the brand is N.C. altogether,
For those films are sure – they never miss fire,
In rainy or in sunshiny weather.

Glories of youth with their tinsel and gold
Evanish with oncoming years,
And the dreams that we dream just dreams may remain
In spite of our labor and tears.
I’ll lead out my army, some ten million strong,
And we’ll catch the old world as she passes,
And scenes we behold with the clearness of youth,
Someday we’ll review with our glasses.

While we are young we’ll imprison the earth,
Its flowers, its grasses, and dews;
We’ll get the old home and the garden and well,
And the orchard with its many hues;
We’ll keep the old folk as we love them today,
Ere their youth and their roses can fade,
Then we’ll laugh at old Time, we’ll battle him quite,
We are Scouts of the Kodak Brigade!

(1915)



9 Comments »

  1. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that. I just read a note in the paper this morning that Kodak is close to agreement to spin-off its document and personal imaging units–which will clear the way for it to emerge from bankruptcy.

    Which, of course, it entered because of a notoriously bad bet it made 25 years ago about how quickly digital images would improve and begin to threaten the film business.

    So, about 80 years after that poem, that Kodak Brigade went half a league, half a league, half a league onward, into the valley of Death. Canon to the left of them, Canon to the right of them, Canon in front of them, volleying and thundering. And all that came back from the jaws of death was tattered and torn, but not the ten million. Not even the six hundred.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 30, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  2. By the way, what was “N.C.”?

    Comment by Mark B. — April 30, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  3. I have no idea about the “N.C.,” Mark — I was counting on you to figure it out for me!

    Another element in the Kodak slide (and I don’t mean photographic slide) was the advent of Fujifilm. Fuji struggled with matching Kodak’s fidelity to colors as the human eye saw them, and was only able to approximate reality with garish over-saturated colors. But they marketed that as a feature, not a bug. Kodak didn’t respond,and Fuji stole the market.

    But aside from the literal brand name Kodak, and considering the word as used here in the generic sense of snapshot-maker, I thought this poem was cute, with some good ideas and a fun rhythm that matches the bright, upbeat words. I especially liked the thought expressed as “We’ll keep the old folk as we love them today, Ere their youth and their roses can fade,” and will extend that beyond faded youth to the time when their captured pictures lend a tangible reality to our memories of people we miss so much. I am so grateful for the photographs.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 30, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  4. FWIW, apparently (based on a bit of Google searching) Kodak offered NC (natural color) and VC (vivid color) films.

    Comment by Robin V — April 30, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  5. I’ll have to keep searching for that “N.C.” 1915 is a bit before my time!

    A few other things that I thought interesting:

    1915 saw the beginning of the second year of what they knew as the World War–I don’t know when reality set in (and when it was transmitted to Idaho) and people realized that the war was going to be a long, bitter slog. But the army of boys and girls with their Kodaks is a nice contrast to what was happening in Europe.

    The fact that the tradename “Kodak” had become almost generic, besides being a cautionary tale for trademark lawyers and those that love them, shows just how successful the company had become, just 15 years after it had introduced the camera and the process that made photography accessible to the masses.

    And H.R. Merrill. From Cache Valley. One suspects that he was related to Marriner Merrill, but Family Tree doesn’t turn up any immediate suspects in the few moments I had time to snoop around.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 30, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

  6. Color film would not have been available to that Brigade of Kodak bearers in 1915.

    But Kodak did in 1903 introduce “Non Curling” film–the standard for the next 30 years or so–which fits the sense of the poem–on spools, but the brand is N.C. Here’s are some images that suggest that this was what H.R. Merrill had in mind.

    I’m putting my money there until a better offer comes along.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 30, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

  7. By George [Eastman], I think Robin’s got it! [Cross-posted with Mark, who must be right.]

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 30, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  8. Just don’t take any pictures of cows at the slaughterhouse.

    Comment by Grant — April 30, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

  9. Nice. This is a lot of fun.

    I’m just old enough to remember the days when being a “shutterbug” made you kind of an odd duck. Amazing how things have changed in the last few decades. But I wouldn’t trade those snapshots of the “old folk” for anything, and I wish I had more of them.

    Comment by lindberg — May 2, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

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