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April 28, 2023

20 Fascinating Vintage Portraits of Women in Photo Booths From the 1940s

Like any invention, the photo booth as we know and love it has gone through many phases over the decades. Its first prototype was wildly popular in New York City, soon spreading across the country and overseas to document the world’s smiles.

The first known photo machine was featured at the World Fair in Paris in 1889. This coin-operated device would develop a ferrotype, a photo transferred onto a thin sheet of metal, in about five minutes. In 1925, Russian immigrant Anatol Josepho built the first curtain-enclosed photo booth in New York City. After creating a successful prototype, Josepho opened Photomaton Studio on Broadway, which had three photo booths with attendants and attracted thousands of customers in its first months of business. For 25 cents, people could get a strip of eight photos in about eight minutes. Photo booths spread throughout the United States after this success. A March 1927 headline of The New York Times read: “Slot Photo Device Brings $1,000,000 to Young Inventor.” The deal, worth $12 million today, also guaranteed future royalties for his invention.

During the 1920s and 1930s, photo booths gained immense popularity in the United States and Europe, often found in department stores, drug stores, and amusement parks. These early photo booths were typically dark, cramped, and produced only black and white photographs. Despite these limitations, they remained a popular form of entertainment among the masses, with people often waiting in long lines to take their turn in the booth.

The 1940s and 1950s brought about advancements in photo booth technology, with the introduction of color film, improved lighting, and larger, more comfortable booths. They had become a ubiquitous feature of society, found in nearly every major city. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, photo booths saw a decline in popularity with the rise of instant cameras and home photography. But, the photo booth was not dead yet. In the late 1970s, a new type of photo booth was introduced – the “glamour booth” – larger, more comfortable, and producing high-quality, full-color photographs. These booths regained popularity and were often found in malls and high-traffic areas.


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