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Exploring Collections at Home - Fingerprinting Camera

Despite our museum being closed for now, we want to stay engaged with you, our members and community. So, we’ve decided to create these blog posts to highlight our collections. We’ll start with an artifact or photograph from our own holdings and tell you more about it, plus share ways to dig deeper on your own.

Don’t forget that you can take a look at the rest of what’s available at, where thousands of photographs, artifacts, and archives are posted online. Even though we may have to stay apart for now, we’re still hard at work to share Wilmette’s history with you. Send us an email at if you have any questions or comments, and we’ll be in touch.


Top Image: Police Fingerprinting Camera, 1921. See the full catalog record and more images of the camera here


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. 

Fingerprint image


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.

Eastman Museum Tour