Edison’s Kinetoscope

Source: ‘Edison’s Kinetoscope’, The Straits Times, 13 July 1896, p. 2


DR. HARLEY, the entertainer, ventriloquist, illusionist, and electrician, has brought the novelty of which the reading and scientific public have heard and read so much, viz., the novelty that Edison failed to finish in time for the Chicago Exhibition, and which he calls the Kinetoscope. It is in the shape of an upright hardwood pillar letter-box, being square instead of round, having a hooded slit in the top and a magnifier beneath, through which the beholder views the scene to be enacted. The bar saloon scene is one. In an American bar some men are seen seated at a table playing cards. A man enters and purchases a cigar. He then overlooks the players, and making a remark to one of them – which is resented – a row and fight immediately takes place. The Police are called in who clear the bar; and the landlady then draws a jug of beer, and gives it to the Policeman, who has evidently had a dry job.

It should be understood that this is not an imaginary scene from the brush of an artist, but is an accurate photograph of a scene that has taken place. The Gaiety Girls doing the carnival dance are perfectly lifelike, every movement every smile on the face; and the swish of the skirt are in full evidence. Within the cabinet is a small, but powerful, electric motor – which runs a number of wheels and reels that carry a Photographic Film of celluloid having 1,400 photographs more or less on it. These were taken at 46 per second, and are run past the eye at the same rate over an electric lamp, and by a rapidly revolving reel, which cuts off the light, at the right moment, the effect is produced. Dr. Harley will lecture and exhibit the machine at Messrs. Robinson’s music store from 10 till 5 to-day and Tuesday. Only a limited number will be able to view it as his accumulators are running low and he will not get them filled in Singapore.

Comment: This report comes from the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times. The Edison films described are New Bar Room Scene (1895) and Gaiety Girls aka The Carnival Dance (1894). It is is correct to assert that Edison did not exhibit the Kinetosope at the 1893 World’s Fair. Dr Harley exhibited films in several Asian locations at this time. Note the lack of an electricity supply in Singapore in 1896.


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