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March 31: Anatol Josepho’s Photo Booth

March 31, 2014

AutoAnatolGannaJosephoAnatol M. Josepho, an immigrant from Siberia who invented the photo booth (“Photomaton”) in 1925, was born in Omsk on this date in 1894. Josepho was a photographer who went to Berlin at age 15, New York at 18, and Shanghai in his mid-twenties. His “Photomaton” debuted in September, 1925 at 1659 Broadway, between 51st and 52nd Streets in Manhattan, and charged 25¢ for a strip of eight photos, which were developed in eight minutes. “[A]s many as 7,500 people a day . . . would line up to have their photos taken,” writes Näkki Goranin in The Telegraph, and “the place came to be known as ‘Broadway’s greatest quarter-snatcher.’ The New York governor and a senator were among those waiting for the fun of the automatic photo strip. A white-gloved attendant would guide people to the booth and, once inside, direct them to ‘look to the right, look to the left, look at the camera.’ ” In 1927, Josepho sold the patent to his invention to a group led by Henry Morgenthau for $1 million.

jacqueline_kennedy_onassis__jackie_kennedy__john_f_kennedy__jfk__photo_booth“While I was in China, in 1921, I drew rough plans for the invention. I decided to come to America and hunt for backers. I landed at Seattle. It struck me that I ought to go to Hollywood and get motion picture experience. I went there, got the experience I needed, and then came east. I had relatives in New York City. With their aid, and that of friends, I raised what I needed to produce the first model. For that purpose, I raised $11,000. Incidentally, I may say that those who loaned me the money for an interest in the invention have been well repaid for taking a chance.” —Anatol Josepho