Early Poster.

Early Poster.

Early Poster.

Early Edison Poster.

Early Edison Poster.


Edison Animation.




The Passion Play.




Winsor McCay.


The Amateur Detective.

the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

A Night in the Snow.





Timeline 1890 to 1899.


A Brief Overview of the Decade

This decade was the very heart of what Mark Twain dubbed "The Gilded Age". Railroads and steel mills created unheard of wealth for so-called "Robber Barons" who built enormous public buildings and equally enormous private mansions. As people tapped their toes to such new songs as "Down By the Old Mill Stream" and "In the Good Old Summertime", and rode their bicycles which had become all the rage, they began installing electricity in their homes and talking to each other on that new-fangled invention, the telephone.

Anything seemed to be possible, and this vision of the future was reflected in the spectacular Chicago World's Fair of 1893 that recorded over 27 million visits. By the end of the decade the Wright brothers were busy designing the first successful airplane, and Henry Ford had built his first gasoline-powered automobile. This was truly the "Gay 90s", and during this period motion pictures would be introduced and would quickly establish the foundations of a new form of entertainment, and of a new industry.


History of Motion Pictures

Significant Films

Picture Show Man Articles 


Thomas Edison's assistant, W.K.L. Dickson, begins devoting himself to the "motion picture project". He and his staff develop a horizontal-feed motion picture camera.


Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953


A peephole-viewing machine is unveiled by Edison during a convention of the Federation of Women's Clubs. The motion picture in the viewing machine shows a man bowing, smiling and taking off his hat.

Edison calls his motion picture camera a kinetograph, and his peephole-viewing device a kinetoscope. He prepares to patent both devices, but forgets to apply for overseas patents.


Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953




Edison 's use of 1 1 / 2 - inch film in his vertical-feed motion picture camera establishes the basis for today's standard 35mm commercial film gauge.


See our Question & Answer #1:
Why is Commercial Movie Film 35mm Wide?

Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The "Academy Ratio" - The Shape of Movies Before 1953.



Edison builds a film studio on the grounds of his laboratories in New Jersey to produce films for his kinetoscope machines. The studio is called "The Black Maria", a slang term for a police patrol wagon that the studio is said to resemble.

"The Blacksmith Scene" becomes the first commercial-length modern motion picture subject to be publicly exhibited.

Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.




The Holland brothers open the first kinetoscope parlor in New York City on April 14. In one year they have gross receipts of over $16,000.

Senator Bradley forbids the projection of one of Edison 's films that shows the dancer Carmencita's undergarments as she dances. This is the first case of censorship in the moving picture industry.

On June 6, in Richmond, Indiana, the inventor Charles Francis Jenkins becomes the first person to project a filmed motion picture onto a screen for an audience.

The Kinetoscope Exhibition Company (owned by Otway Latham, Grey Latham, Samuel Tilden, and Enoch Rector) opens in downtown, New York City. Six large–capacity Kinetoscopes (able to handle up to 150 feet of film) are set up, each one showing one, one–minute round of "The Leonard–Cushing Fight" that the company had staged and filmed at Edison's "Black Maria" studio in West Orange, NJ. These one–minute films are the longest films made to date for Edison's Kinetoscope.

"Edison's Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze" (aka: "Fred Ott's Sneeze"), a film made for publicity purposes (as a series of sequential still photographs) to accompany an article in "Harper's Weekly" (24 March 1894), becomes the first film to receive a copyright, although it is copyrighted as a photograph.

The Kinetoscope Exhibition Company releases "The Leonard–Cushing Fight". This was the first boxing film produced for commercial exhibition (even though it was carefully orchestrated), and proved to be very popular. The fight consisted of six one–minute rounds.


Films From the Past: "Fred Ott's Sneeze"

Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.



From April 1894 through February 1895, Edison 's kinetoscope and film sales exceed $177,000.

In April, W.K.L. Dickson leaves Edison 's laboratories after a difference of opinion with Edison. He goes on to become one of the founders of the American Mutoscope Company, which would eventually become the Biograph Company.

Working with Eugene Lauste and W.K.L. Dickson, the Lathams build a film projector that they call an Eidoloscope (or Pantoptikon). Because their projector uses a loop of film to absorb the shock of the film's intermittent movement, the length of film shot or projected is no longer limited to a couple of minutes.

The Lathams open a small storefront theater in New York City, and on May 20 they show a projected motion picture to a paying audience. The projector is still in its experimental stage, however, and the quality of the projected image is not very good.

On June 1st Woodville Latham applies for a patent for a "Projecting-Kinetoscope" that uses a loop of film to absorb the intermittent shock of the film as it passes through a camera or projector. This allows much longer rolls of film to be used. The loop of film becomes known as "The Latham Loop".

Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins patent a motion picture projector that they call the Phantoscope. In September, at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, they arrange to exhibit Edison kinetoscope movies using their Phantoscope projector instead of a kinetoscope.

The Lumière brothers in France invent a motion picture camera/projector that they call a Cinèmatographe. Using it, they shoot a film at their factory and then show the film's projected image to a scientific conference in March. On December 28 they show their projected films in the Indian Exhibition at the Grand Café in Paris to a paying audience of 33 spectators. (Admission is 1 franc.) It is generally agreed that this day marks the official "birthday" of the movies because the Lumière's Cinèmatographe was the first projector to advance beyond the experimental stage and the first to be offered for sale.

The " Sortie des usines Lumière" (Leaving the Lumière Factory) shows workers leaving the Lumière factory and becomes Louis Lumière's first film.

Using the newly discovered "Latham Loop" in their camera, the Lambda Company is able to film an eight minute prize fight between Young Griffo and Charles Barnett (4 rounds of a minute and a half each, with a minute rest between rounds) on one continuous reel of film without interruption. The "Griffo–Barnett Fight" was then projected onto a screen, rather than shown in a peep–hole Kinetoscope, at a storefront theater in New York City.


Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.



Charles Raff and Frank Gammon buy the Jenkins-Armat phantoscope from Thomas Armat on behalf of Edison. They rename the projector " Edison's Vitascope", and it is hailed as Edison's latest invention. By selling exclusive Vitascope exhibition rights for specific territories, they make a windfall profit.

Charles and Emile Pathè found a company called "Pathé-Frères" in Paris. By the next decade they will become the largest producer of films in the world.

A French magician, Georges Méliès, becomes the cinema's first storyteller by producing short dramas in which he attempts to link individual scenes into simple narratives. He also makes a variety of trick films and fantasies in which he introduces numerous special effects.

On June 26, William "Pop" Rock and Walter Wainwright transform a converted vacant store in New Orleans into Vitascope Hall. It becomes the first "storefront theater" in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to showing motion pictures. Admission is 10¢, and because of popular demand films continued to be shown through September.

Benjamin Keith books the Lumière's cinèmatographe for his vaudeville circuit in America. In his New York City theatre alone the cinèmatographe presentations are so popular they run for 23 weeks.

Edison's Vitascope Theatre, owned by Mitchell and Moe Mark, opens in Buffalo, NY, on October 19 in the Ellicott Square Building. It is the first permanent venue in the United States constructed specifically to show motion pictures.

Motion pictures are introduced into both China and India.

The Edison film, "The Kiss", creates a scandal because of its "brazen lack of morality by showing two people kissing greedily in front of the camera".

"The Conjuring of a Woman at the House of Robert Houdin" is released by Georges Méliès. It is Méliès first film based on a trick of substitution.

Films From the Past: "The Kiss"

Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.




The American Mutoscope Company (later renamed the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company and frequently called the "Biograph Company"), marketing their own films and their new biograph projector, becomes the foremost motion picture company in the U.S.

In Paris a catastrophic fire breaks out at the Bazar de la Charité's temporary cinema killing 121 people.

Charles Méliès constructs the first movie studio that uses artificial illumination.

Because of customs irregularities with the importation of their cameras, and because their films use a single-hole sprocket system that is incompatible with other English and American projectors, the Lumière Agency liquidates its holdings of equipment and films in both the U.S. and England.

Thomas Edison serves his first legal writ, announcing his intention to eliminate all competitors in motion pictures.

Biograph signs a contract with the Orpheum vaudeville circuit establishing a nationwide exhibition network for its films.

The 35mm film gauge becomes widely accepted as the standard gauge for motion pictures, although Biograph and other film companies continue to use other gauges.

Edison's "Admiral Cigarette" is the first advertising film to be submitted for copyright.

The Biograph film, "The Haverstraw Tunnel", became the company's most popular film. It was made by mounting a camera on the cowcatcher of a train that was then sent through a tunnel.

"McKinley Taking the Oath" was one of a dozen films related to the new president's inauguration.

"The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight" is shown by the Veriscope Company. For the first time spectators could see a regulation championship fight that had been recorded mechanically. (An expert stood to the side of the screen and offered a running commentary, becoming the first "sports announcer".) The producers pay 25 percent of the film's profits to each of the prizefighters.



Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.




The sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor gives rise to a multitude of Spanish-American War films.

Edison files a patent-infringement suit against the Biograph Company.

Edison 's lawyers visit two theater producers and warn them against exhibiting foreign films in America.

Germany produces its first film.






The Biograph film, "Divers at Work on the Wreck of the Maine", is the first film shot at the actual location of the sunken warship.

W.K.L Dickson takes the Biograph cameras to Rome and is granted permission to film Pope Leo XIII. Public screenings of these films are considered prestigious affairs often attended by both religious and lay dignitaries.

Venues showing the film version of "The Passion Play of Oberammergau", employ a lecturer who gives a running commentary during each showing. Despite the fact that it is not a film of the actual famous religious play, but a "recreation" that was produced in New York City, it succeeds in appealing to all stratums of society and exposes a larger audience to motion pictures.


Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.




Vaudeville theatres establish permanent relations with motion picture exhibition services.

Biograph introduces a new tripod head that allows quick, smooth panning of the camera.

Although the vast majority of films still consist of a single shot, a few multi-shot films begin to be included in the catalogues of film companies.

At the National Export Exposition in Philadelphia, Sigmund (or "Siegmund") Lubin constructs the first purpose-built movie theater.

In Paris, Ms. Alice Guy is named head of motion picture production for Léon Gaumont. She is only 26 years old.

Méliès's film, "Cinderella", becomes his most popular and influential film to date. His use of dissolves when shifting from scene to scene was quickly emulated by other film makers.

Nitrate Film - A Major Problem in Movie Restoration.

The “Academy” Ratio – The Shape of Movies Before 1953

The "Latham Loop" - A Loop of Film that Freed an Industry.




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