Reg. v Alfred Jones and Samuel Gold

Source: Prosecution of Offences Acts, 1879 and 1884. Return to an address of the Honourable the House of Commons, dated 29 June 1900, 19th Century House of Commons Sessional Papers, vol. LXIX p. 247, no. 389 – Reg. v Alfred Jones and Samuel Gold

Text: These prisoners were “street showmen” and they were originally arrested for using bad language and causing a crowd to assemble in a public thoroughfare. On being brought before the magistrate, the police officer stated that her found the prisoners in the Southwark Bridge Road, a busy shopping thoroughfare, with a cinematograph machine, around which a large crowd had assembled, and that in consequence of the description they gave of the pictures to be exhibited therein her arrested them.

The magistrate, in view of the increasing number of cinematographs to be seen in the streets and at places of amusement, and of the danger which might arise if pictures such as those described by the officer were allowed to be exhibited, felt that his powers to deal summarily with the prisoners were insufficient, and he remanded the case in order that the Director might consider whether or not the prisoners should be indicted at the sessions for wilfully exposing to public view an obscene print or picture.

The Director caused inquiries to be made, and had the pictures in the cinematograph examined, when it appeared that the language used by the prisoners by no means exaggerated the obscene nature of the “film.” It also appeared that when inviting people to pay their pence and look into the machine one of the prisoners said that women and girls were not allowed to see it, as it was only for males. The Director thereupon took charge of the prosecution, and the prisoners were committed for trial at the quarter sessions. It was contended on their behalf that the exhibition was not an indecent one, and that similar pictures had been exhibited at a London music hall, and it was proposed to call the photographer who took them. In the end, however, defendants elected to reserve their defence. Subsequently they pleaded guilty at the South London Sessions in October 1899, and were sentenced, Jones to two, and Gold to three calendar months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

At the conclusion of the case the judge directed that inquiry should be made respecting the previous relationship between the prisoners, and as to when, how, and where they procured the films. These inquiries were made, and upon it being ascertained that no similar films existed, and that the photographers, in view of the conviction, did not propose to take any more of them the matter was allowed to drop.

Comments: The Street Cinematograph, which is possibly what was being used by Jones and Gold, was the invention of British manufacturer W.C. Hughes. It was a large peepshow comprising a film projector attached to nine-foot-long cabinet placed on trestles, with multiple viewing apertures so that several people could gather round and view the films on a screen at the far end of the cabinet. As the name indicates, it was exhibited in the open air and enjoyed a brief vogue 1898-99.

Edison’s Latest Invention

Source: George M. Smith, ‘Edison’s Latest Invention’, St. Paul Daily Globe, 8 April 1894, p. 18

Text: EDISON’S LATEST INVENTION.
The Kinetoscope and the Marvels it Accomplishes.

INTERESTING CHAT WITH THE WIZARD.
He Calls His Latest Work a Toy But Grows Enthusiastic Over What he Hopes to do With it in the Future — Some of its Uses Forecast by the Wizard

“The kinetoscope does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” That is a phrase which has often been on the lips of Thomas A. Edison during the past several weeks, and it conveys an idea which has been very much in his mind for several years. It is a perfect epigrammatic definition of his latest invention, for it is a fact that the kinetoscope reproduces the eye effect of motion just as the phonograph reproduces to the ear the effect of sound. How this is done and what the machine that does it is like, it is the purpose of this article to tell.

Several days ago the writer called by appointment at the Edison laboratory in West Orange, N. J., and sent his card up to Mr. Edison. Mr. Edison sent back word that W.K.L. Dickson would show and explain the kinetosoope to me and that afterward he himself would talk with me about it. Mr Dickson is one of Mr. Edison’s right-hand men, and a history of the kinetoscope would be incomplete without seme account of his connection with it. He is an electrical engineer, and has had much to do with the development of the ore separator on which Mr. Edison is now working. He is also a fine chemist, and one of the greatest experts in photography in the world. A fine biography of Mr. Edison has recently come from his pen and that of his sister, Miss Antonia Dickson. Between six and seven years ago Mr. Edison formulated the problem the result of which is the kinetoscope, and communicated it to Mr. Dickson. Since then they have been developing the idea, and although their experiments are not yet carried to their conclusion, they have reached a point where Mr. Edison is willing that the public should see what they have done.

edison

Mr. Dickson greeted me cordially, and pointed to an oak cabinet standing in the middle of one of the rooms of the photograph department. It was the kinetoscope. In appearance it is very like the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph, with which most people are already familiar. If an oak parlor organ with the keys covered were reduced some what in size, it would look somewhat like the kinetoscope. Mr. Dickson took a piece of brass exactly the size of a nickel and dropped it into the slot, while I looked into a glass in top. An electric light was burning inside, and the noise of rapidly running machinery was audible. The scene that was reproduced was that of a barber shop, and a placard on the wall informed the observer that it was “The Latest Wonder, Shave and Haircut for a Nickel.” It pictured a man being shaved while two others sat by and enjoyed a joke which one of them had discovered in a comic paper. All the movements of the different persons seen were reproduced clearly and precisely as they took place before the camera. This is the picture that has been shown oftenest to those who have looked into the kinetoscope. Many other pictures are ready to be put into the marvelous instrument, and before long twenty-five of the machines will have been sold and stationed in public places, where any one may enjoy thorn for five cents a look.

The kinetoscope is a sequel to the kinetograph, the invention of which was announced some time ago. The business of the kinetograph is to take the pictures, and the function of the kinetoscope is to display them to the eye, one after another, so rapidly that they all seem like one scene, with the figures moving about as they do in actual life. The forerunner of these inventions was the zoetrope, a child’s toy which passed before the gaze of the beholder four pictures in a second, and created a semblance of the effect of motion. Then Muybridge got a battery of cameras that would take from eighteen to twenty impressions in a second. But neither of these was quick enough to deceive the human eye – that is to say, if eighteen or twenty pictures a second were presented to the sight the eye could easily detect when one went and another came. Mr. Edison discovered that, in order to create the illusion of a stationary or continuous picture, forty-six views would have to be presented every second, and each one of them would have to pause about the one-forty-sixth part of a second, and then be replaced by the next in the one hundred and eighty-fifth part of a second. This is the rate at which the impressions are received by the kinetograph, and reproduced by the kinetoscope. In the kinetoscope every picture must stop in exactly the same place as every other picture. If it did not there would be a tremor which the eye would notice, and the illusion would be dispelled.

blackmaria

Suppose, for example, it were desired to show a man in the act of taking a step. While he was moving his foot through the air a number of pictures would be recorded, each one of which would show the foot and the whole of his body in a slightly different position, as the step progressed. The series of pictures would be passed before the eye so rapidly that only one picture would appear, and there would be a perfect reproduction of the step.

The kinetoscope runs about thirty seconds every time a nickel is dropped into it, and in that time, it will be seen, more than a thousand separate views are slid under the little glass window in the top.

As we left the building in which the kinetoscope stood Mr. Dickson pointed to the remarkable photographic theatre in which the kinetograph does its work. It is called the “Black Maria,” and it is so arranged upon a pivot and a track that one can easily move lt around to the position required to meet the light of the sun. We then walked to the room on the second floor of the laboratory in which Mr. Edison was sitting.

He was deep in thought, and did not seem to notice that we had entered; but when Mr. Dickson spoke to him he drew two chairs close together, sat down on one, bade me me seated on the other, and signified that he was ready to be questioned.

It is said to be a peculiarity of Mr. Edison’s habit of thought that he cares comparatively little for what he has done, and dwells with pleasure on the prospect of what he is about to do. This would seem, to be true with regard to his estimate of the kinetoscope. He speaks of the nickel-in-the-slot machine that we have just been considering as though it were a mere toy, but becomes enthusiastic in unfolding the future greatness of the invention.

“Mr. Edison,” said I, “what do you expect to accomplish in the development of the kinetoscope?”

“I expect to be able to reproduce a whole opera, showing the people on the stage in their natural size and moving around, and to make their voices heard just they sang and talked. I expect to be able to show any celebrated orator on the platform delivering a speech, so that people may see how lie looked and acted and hear the sound of his voice. This I will do by throwing the scenes from the kinetoscope on a large screen by means of a stereopticon, and having the sounds issue from a phonograph at tho proper moment to comport with the movements of those who made them.

“I may say that this has already been done. Down in the library perhaps you noticed a large white screen, extending across one end of the room, wound upon a ratchet roller. I have also a stereopticon, and with these, the kinetoscope and the phonograph, we have reached some very satisfactory results. It will be some time, however, before we secure that absolute perfection which we aim to achieve before we give any public exhibitions. You should see the figures on the screen,” said he, with a glow of pardonable pride, showing that he contemplated that part of his work with sincere pleasure.

“The pictures that are taken at present for the kinetoscope are one inch by three-quarters of an inch in size. The difficulty increases with the dimensions of the picture, because the larger the picture is the further it must move during the fraction of a second that elapses between the time one view disappears and another takes its place. We expect, however, to be able to work successfully with pictures at inch and a half high, and that, we think, will be the limit of the possibilities of the kinetoscope.”

“Do you expect to make any money out of this invention?”

“No, I do not see where there is anything to be made out of it. I have been largely influenced by sentiment in the prosecution of this design. But, said he, with a merry twinkle in his eye, “as I have no steam yacht, or fast horses, or anything of that sort, I thought I could afford to sink a little money in the kinetoscope.

“Although it occurred to me six or seven years ago that something might be done in this way, the broad idea, as I have stated it to you, came to me only four or five years ago, and for the past two years we have been working at it diligently. My. first experiments in this direction were conducted with a phonograph and a micro-camera.

“That little nickel-in-the-slot affair is only intended to let the people know what our ideas is.”

Two men engaged in wrestling are shown in one of the series of illustrations that accompany the kinetoscope. They were photographed in the “Black Maria” by the kinetograph and the kinetoscope portrays the whole bout from beginning to end, with every move that the wrestlers made. As the struggle carried them about over considerable space they were placed at quite a distance from the camera, and their figures are smaller than those of Sandow, which form another series of illustrations.

sandow

Sandow, the strong man, is an intimate friend of Mr. Dickson, which accounts for his being the first celebrity to have his fame perpetuated by the kinetoscope. The picture shown herewith is only one of a hundred of which include Sandow’s complete performance. It has been stated that Sandow was photographed while holding Mr. Edison out at arm’s length with one finger, but this is not true. Sandow could easily have done it, even had Mr. Edison been a much heavier man than he is, and during his visit to the laboratory it was suggested that such a picture should be taken, but for some, reason or other the idea was not carried out.

During the experiments that were made with the kinetograph an incident occurred that was calculated to test the nerves of those who took, part in it. It was decided to attempt to photograph a bullet fired from a rifle while it was flying through the air, and this was accomplished; but as the same thing has been done by others, Mr. Edison and Mr. Dickson claim no credit for originality in their success. A bullet was heated white-hot, and a charge of powder was poured into a rifle barrel. The bullet was then put into the muzzle of the gun and allowed to roll until it reached the powder, which instantly ignited and sent the ball flying through the room within range of the kinetograph. This delicate operation had to be repeated three times before a good impression could be obtained, and, as may be imagined, it was mighty ticklish business.

These inventions, the kinetograph, the kinetoscope and the phono-kinetoscope, put Mr. Edison as certainly in the foremost place among photographers and electro-photographers as the other products of his genius entitle him to rank first in the school of electricians. It is difficult, while the revelation is fresh in our thoughts and new to our understanding, to estimate what the kinetoscope will contribute to the progress of science and the education of man. It will disclose movements that hitherto have eluded the eye, and as to which speculation has been misleading, and it will make the great leaders of the present live again in the future as their contemporaries see and know them. What other uses will be found for it it is too early to say. That it will enhance Mr. Edison’s fame and increase the sum of the world’s debt to him is beyond question.

Comment: This is a typical example of the many eulogistic reports of the Kinetoscope peepshow which appeared in the American press around this time. It was syndicated across several newspapers. The Kinetoscope was launched commercially shortly after this article, at a parlour opened by the Holland brothers at 1155 Broadway, New York on 14 April 1894. The films referred to in this article are Barber Shop (1893), Wrestling Match (1894) and Sandow (1894). Eugen Sandow was a renowned bodybuilder. William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson was Edison’s principal engineer working on motion picture devices. The images of Edison, the Black Maria and Sandow all feature in the original article, which was published in St Paul, Minnesota.

Links: Copy on Chronicling America

Edison's Latest Invention

Source: George M. Smith, ‘Edison’s Latest Invention’, St. Paul Daily Globe, 8 April 1894, p. 18

Text: EDISON’S LATEST INVENTION.
The Kinetoscope and the Marvels it Accomplishes.

INTERESTING CHAT WITH THE WIZARD.
He Calls His Latest Work a Toy But Grows Enthusiastic Over What he Hopes to do With it in the Future — Some of its Uses Forecast by the Wizard

“The kinetoscope does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” That is a phrase which has often been on the lips of Thomas A. Edison during the past several weeks, and it conveys an idea which has been very much in his mind for several years. It is a perfect epigrammatic definition of his latest invention, for it is a fact that the kinetoscope reproduces the eye effect of motion just as the phonograph reproduces to the ear the effect of sound. How this is done and what the machine that does it is like, it is the purpose of this article to tell.

Several days ago the writer called by appointment at the Edison laboratory in West Orange, N. J., and sent his card up to Mr. Edison. Mr. Edison sent back word that W.K.L. Dickson would show and explain the kinetosoope to me and that afterward he himself would talk with me about it. Mr Dickson is one of Mr. Edison’s right-hand men, and a history of the kinetoscope would be incomplete without seme account of his connection with it. He is an electrical engineer, and has had much to do with the development of the ore separator on which Mr. Edison is now working. He is also a fine chemist, and one of the greatest experts in photography in the world. A fine biography of Mr. Edison has recently come from his pen and that of his sister, Miss Antonia Dickson. Between six and seven years ago Mr. Edison formulated the problem the result of which is the kinetoscope, and communicated it to Mr. Dickson. Since then they have been developing the idea, and although their experiments are not yet carried to their conclusion, they have reached a point where Mr. Edison is willing that the public should see what they have done.

edison

Mr. Dickson greeted me cordially, and pointed to an oak cabinet standing in the middle of one of the rooms of the photograph department. It was the kinetoscope. In appearance it is very like the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph, with which most people are already familiar. If an oak parlor organ with the keys covered were reduced some what in size, it would look somewhat like the kinetoscope. Mr. Dickson took a piece of brass exactly the size of a nickel and dropped it into the slot, while I looked into a glass in top. An electric light was burning inside, and the noise of rapidly running machinery was audible. The scene that was reproduced was that of a barber shop, and a placard on the wall informed the observer that it was “The Latest Wonder, Shave and Haircut for a Nickel.” It pictured a man being shaved while two others sat by and enjoyed a joke which one of them had discovered in a comic paper. All the movements of the different persons seen were reproduced clearly and precisely as they took place before the camera. This is the picture that has been shown oftenest to those who have looked into the kinetoscope. Many other pictures are ready to be put into the marvelous instrument, and before long twenty-five of the machines will have been sold and stationed in public places, where any one may enjoy thorn for five cents a look.

The kinetoscope is a sequel to the kinetograph, the invention of which was announced some time ago. The business of the kinetograph is to take the pictures, and the function of the kinetoscope is to display them to the eye, one after another, so rapidly that they all seem like one scene, with the figures moving about as they do in actual life. The forerunner of these inventions was the zoetrope, a child’s toy which passed before the gaze of the beholder four pictures in a second, and created a semblance of the effect of motion. Then Muybridge got a battery of cameras that would take from eighteen to twenty impressions in a second. But neither of these was quick enough to deceive the human eye – that is to say, if eighteen or twenty pictures a second were presented to the sight the eye could easily detect when one went and another came. Mr. Edison discovered that, in order to create the illusion of a stationary or continuous picture, forty-six views would have to be presented every second, and each one of them would have to pause about the one-forty-sixth part of a second, and then be replaced by the next in the one hundred and eighty-fifth part of a second. This is the rate at which the impressions are received by the kinetograph, and reproduced by the kinetoscope. In the kinetoscope every picture must stop in exactly the same place as every other picture. If it did not there would be a tremor which the eye would notice, and the illusion would be dispelled.

blackmaria

Suppose, for example, it were desired to show a man in the act of taking a step. While he was moving his foot through the air a number of pictures would be recorded, each one of which would show the foot and the whole of his body in a slightly different position, as the step progressed. The series of pictures would be passed before the eye so rapidly that only one picture would appear, and there would be a perfect reproduction of the step.

The kinetoscope runs about thirty seconds every time a nickel is dropped into it, and in that time, it will be seen, more than a thousand separate views are slid under the little glass window in the top.

As we left the building in which the kinetoscope stood Mr. Dickson pointed to the remarkable photographic theatre in which the kinetograph does its work. It is called the “Black Maria,” and it is so arranged upon a pivot and a track that one can easily move lt around to the position required to meet the light of the sun. We then walked to the room on the second floor of the laboratory in which Mr. Edison was sitting.

He was deep in thought, and did not seem to notice that we had entered; but when Mr. Dickson spoke to him he drew two chairs close together, sat down on one, bade me me seated on the other, and signified that he was ready to be questioned.

It is said to be a peculiarity of Mr. Edison’s habit of thought that he cares comparatively little for what he has done, and dwells with pleasure on the prospect of what he is about to do. This would seem, to be true with regard to his estimate of the kinetoscope. He speaks of the nickel-in-the-slot machine that we have just been considering as though it were a mere toy, but becomes enthusiastic in unfolding the future greatness of the invention.

“Mr. Edison,” said I, “what do you expect to accomplish in the development of the kinetoscope?”

“I expect to be able to reproduce a whole opera, showing the people on the stage in their natural size and moving around, and to make their voices heard just they sang and talked. I expect to be able to show any celebrated orator on the platform delivering a speech, so that people may see how lie looked and acted and hear the sound of his voice. This I will do by throwing the scenes from the kinetoscope on a large screen by means of a stereopticon, and having the sounds issue from a phonograph at tho proper moment to comport with the movements of those who made them.

“I may say that this has already been done. Down in the library perhaps you noticed a large white screen, extending across one end of the room, wound upon a ratchet roller. I have also a stereopticon, and with these, the kinetoscope and the phonograph, we have reached some very satisfactory results. It will be some time, however, before we secure that absolute perfection which we aim to achieve before we give any public exhibitions. You should see the figures on the screen,” said he, with a glow of pardonable pride, showing that he contemplated that part of his work with sincere pleasure.

“The pictures that are taken at present for the kinetoscope are one inch by three-quarters of an inch in size. The difficulty increases with the dimensions of the picture, because the larger the picture is the further it must move during the fraction of a second that elapses between the time one view disappears and another takes its place. We expect, however, to be able to work successfully with pictures at inch and a half high, and that, we think, will be the limit of the possibilities of the kinetoscope.”

“Do you expect to make any money out of this invention?”

“No, I do not see where there is anything to be made out of it. I have been largely influenced by sentiment in the prosecution of this design. But, said he, with a merry twinkle in his eye, “as I have no steam yacht, or fast horses, or anything of that sort, I thought I could afford to sink a little money in the kinetoscope.

“Although it occurred to me six or seven years ago that something might be done in this way, the broad idea, as I have stated it to you, came to me only four or five years ago, and for the past two years we have been working at it diligently. My. first experiments in this direction were conducted with a phonograph and a micro-camera.

“That little nickel-in-the-slot affair is only intended to let the people know what our ideas is.”

Two men engaged in wrestling are shown in one of the series of illustrations that accompany the kinetoscope. They were photographed in the “Black Maria” by the kinetograph and the kinetoscope portrays the whole bout from beginning to end, with every move that the wrestlers made. As the struggle carried them about over considerable space they were placed at quite a distance from the camera, and their figures are smaller than those of Sandow, which form another series of illustrations.

sandow

Sandow, the strong man, is an intimate friend of Mr. Dickson, which accounts for his being the first celebrity to have his fame perpetuated by the kinetoscope. The picture shown herewith is only one of a hundred of which include Sandow’s complete performance. It has been stated that Sandow was photographed while holding Mr. Edison out at arm’s length with one finger, but this is not true. Sandow could easily have done it, even had Mr. Edison been a much heavier man than he is, and during his visit to the laboratory it was suggested that such a picture should be taken, but for some, reason or other the idea was not carried out.

During the experiments that were made with the kinetograph an incident occurred that was calculated to test the nerves of those who took, part in it. It was decided to attempt to photograph a bullet fired from a rifle while it was flying through the air, and this was accomplished; but as the same thing has been done by others, Mr. Edison and Mr. Dickson claim no credit for originality in their success. A bullet was heated white-hot, and a charge of powder was poured into a rifle barrel. The bullet was then put into the muzzle of the gun and allowed to roll until it reached the powder, which instantly ignited and sent the ball flying through the room within range of the kinetograph. This delicate operation had to be repeated three times before a good impression could be obtained, and, as may be imagined, it was mighty ticklish business.

These inventions, the kinetograph, the kinetoscope and the phono-kinetoscope, put Mr. Edison as certainly in the foremost place among photographers and electro-photographers as the other products of his genius entitle him to rank first in the school of electricians. It is difficult, while the revelation is fresh in our thoughts and new to our understanding, to estimate what the kinetoscope will contribute to the progress of science and the education of man. It will disclose movements that hitherto have eluded the eye, and as to which speculation has been misleading, and it will make the great leaders of the present live again in the future as their contemporaries see and know them. What other uses will be found for it it is too early to say. That it will enhance Mr. Edison’s fame and increase the sum of the world’s debt to him is beyond question.

Comment: This is a typical example of the many eulogistic reports of the Kinetoscope peepshow which appeared in the American press around this time. It was syndicated across several newspapers. The Kinetoscope was launched commercially shortly after this article, at a parlour opened by the Holland brothers at 1155 Broadway, New York on 14 April 1894. The films referred to in this article are Barber Shop (1893), Wrestling Match (1894) and Sandow (1894). Eugen Sandow was a renowned bodybuilder. William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson was Edison’s principal engineer working on motion picture devices. The images of Edison, the Black Maria and Sandow all feature in the original article, which was published in St Paul, Minnesota.

Links: Copy on Chronicling America

That's the Way it Was

Source: Walter Southgate, That’s the Way it Was: A Working Class Autobiography 1890-1950 (Oxted: New Clarion Press, 1982), pp. 75-79

Text: There were very old houses and shops fronting the Narrow Way of Mare Street opposite the old Hackney Church tower then given up in their old age to such fleeting businesses as wax work shows and salacious picture machines offering the delights of “What the Butler Saw” and “A Night in Paris”.

During my youth I was a regular visitor to the gallery of the Hackney Empire music hall on Monday nights for tuppence … Monday was often a bad days for the halls and so one could get in the gallery for 2d or 3d.

… About the time that the Hackney Music Hall was opened there still existed off the Hackney Road one of the last of the “penny gaffs”. Mayhew describes them as existing in many parts of the metropolis in 1850. “Penny gaffs” had largely disappeared by the 1900s except “The Belmonts”, known locally as “The Flea Pit”. It maintained the tradition of such places right to the very end – colourful, noisy with melodrama and excitement …

… As the old “Flea pit” went out so the silent bioscope came in with a juvenile audience enjoying the blood letting, the shooting and the thundering of horse hooves necessary in a Wild West film. There again the appropriate noises and tempo had to be supplied by a versatile pianist. This fellow sat in the wings playing the same tunes and making the same noises twice nightly, seven days a week.

Comments: Walter Southgate was born in Bethnal Green, London one of seven children. His memoirs include an excellent section on ‘penny gaff’ cheap theatres, a name also given to some of the early cinemas because they were located in the same working class districts and attracted similar audiences. Mare Street is in Hackney, London.

That’s the Way it Was

Source: Walter Southgate, That’s the Way it Was: A Working Class Autobiography 1890-1950 (Oxted: New Clarion Press, 1982), pp. 75-79

Text: There were very old houses and shops fronting the Narrow Way of Mare Street opposite the old Hackney Church tower then given up in their old age to such fleeting businesses as wax work shows and salacious picture machines offering the delights of “What the Butler Saw” and “A Night in Paris”.

During my youth I was a regular visitor to the gallery of the Hackney Empire music hall on Monday nights for tuppence … Monday was often a bad days for the halls and so one could get in the gallery for 2d or 3d.

… About the time that the Hackney Music Hall was opened there still existed off the Hackney Road one of the last of the “penny gaffs”. Mayhew describes them as existing in many parts of the metropolis in 1850. “Penny gaffs” had largely disappeared by the 1900s except “The Belmonts”, known locally as “The Flea Pit”. It maintained the tradition of such places right to the very end – colourful, noisy with melodrama and excitement …

… As the old “Flea pit” went out so the silent bioscope came in with a juvenile audience enjoying the blood letting, the shooting and the thundering of horse hooves necessary in a Wild West film. There again the appropriate noises and tempo had to be supplied by a versatile pianist. This fellow sat in the wings playing the same tunes and making the same noises twice nightly, seven days a week.

Comments: Walter Southgate was born in Bethnal Green, London one of seven children. His memoirs include an excellent section on ‘penny gaff’ cheap theatres, a name also given to some of the early cinemas because they were located in the same working class districts and attracted similar audiences. Mare Street is in Hackney, London.

The Cinematograph

Source: ‘The Cinematograph’, Pall Mall Gazette, 21 February 1896, p. 9

Text: THE CINEMATOGRAPH.

The world in general and London in particular has been given a new series of “living pictures” by some French inventors who have sufficiently tamed the kinetoscope to compel it to exhibit its wonders on the sheet of a magic lantern. No longer will the curious be conpelled to hunt for pennies to deposit in a slot, and to bend the back at an angle of 45 deg. in order to gaze at a moving picture rather less than two inches square. Now you may go to the Marlborough Hall, alongside the Polytechnic – a theatre, by the way, which has been the scene of famous optical wonders in times past – and having handed in the customary shilling, you can sit at your ease and watch scene after scene pass before you, clearly shown on a white screen, with the figures of life-size proportions. Yesterday there was a fairly successful private view of the new show, although the inventors declared that they hoped to attain still greater perfection. Under their system the series of photograph is taken even more rapidly than for the kinetoscope. For each of these series of negatives forty exposures a second are necessary. Even so there is a certain amount of vibration in the moving picture, although the retina of the human eye retains its impression for a full tenth of a second. There is also some of the glittering flicker which is also a defect of the kinetoscope. The series of scenes exhibited yesterday attracted each its burst of applause. They are also agreeably varied – you may see the throng of employees leaving a factory at the dinner hour, or a baby dabbling its hands in a bowl of goldfish. Altogether, it is a more interesting show, and quite worth seeing. The whole series of pictures is to be exhibited hourly.

Comment: The Lumière Cinématographe had a press show at the Polytechnic, Regent Street in London, a regular location for popular science lectures and demonstrations. It opened to the public the following day. The inventors, Augute and Louis Lumière, were not present. The number of images per second employed by the Cinématographe was fewer than that required by the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow, not more. The two films referred to are La Sortie des Usines Lumière (1895) and Pêche aux poissons rouge (1895).

A Look into the Kinetoscope

Source: ‘A Look into the Kinetoscope’, The Salt Lake Herald, 3 September 1894, p. 1

Text: A LOOK INTO THE KINETOSCOPE

[From the Boston Herald]

I you have not looked into Edison’s kinetoscope delay not but plank down your nickels and behold the wonder of the age. Verily it makes the blood run hot and cold. Edison is well named the wizard; he is the great magician of science and we have grown somewhat accustomed to his inventions through daily and constant use, but when you look into this toy that represents the work of unfathomed genius the average man believes the time has come to get excited. Nothing that I had read about the kinetoscope gave any idea of it, and it is only by personal examination that is by seeing these human pictures of absolute events for one’s self that its marvelous effect can be appreciated. The fight in the bar room, the skirt dancing at Koster & Bial’s, Sandow’s exhibition and the cats’ boxing match are as real as life. If the pictures could be on a larger scale the pleasure would be enhanced, though effect of distance does not destroy the perfection of movement or lessen any detail. The soft fluttering drapery of the dancing girl, her graceful poses and the familiar high kick, are all there, and above the sound of the electricity one can imagine the voices, the aplause [sic], the music, and also maybe the squeak of belligerent cats! It is quite possible to believe, as Mr Edison says, that the time is not far away when a grand opera can be acted and sung in a box, under our very eyes. At all events the kinetoscope will preserve what has never been preserved before save in the word painting of variable writers.

Comment: The first Kinetoscope parlour opened to the public at 1155 Broadway, New York City on 14 April 1894. The films are Boxing Cats, Sandow, Bar Room Scene and possibly Carmencita (all USA 1894).

Links: Available on Chronicling America

Edison’s Kinetoscope

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

Text: EDISON’S KINETOSCOPE. A WONDERFUL MACHINE.

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.

The Kinetoscope

Source: ‘The Kinetoscope’, The Morning Post, 18 October 1894, p. 5

Text: Mr. F.Z. Maguire, the representative of Mr. Edison in Europe, last evening received a large number of visitors at a private view of Mr. Edison’s latest invention, the kinetoscope, which was held at No. 70, Oxford-street. Mr. Edison has devoted four years to the experiments which have led to the completion of the kinetoscope, an instrument which by presenting a series of photographs in rapid succession gives a continuous picture of moving objects. Among the scenes represented in the apparatus last evening were a blacksmith’s shop in which three men are at work, with all their movements as they strike the anvil realistically displayed, while the smoke from the furnace gradually ascends; Carmencita, the celebrated Spanish dancer, executing her graceful evolutions; Bertholdi, a female contortionist, going through her performance; a bar-room fight, and a cock-fight. The photographs are exhibited at the rate of 2,000 a minute on a continuous celluloid film 45ft. long. The pictures, which are all perfect in themselves, are magnified in the machine and illuminated by the electric light. The present exhibition, however, does not represent the degree of perfection to which Mr. Edison promises to carry his invention, and it suffers by the smallness of the pictures and the want of clearly defined light and shade as well as by the inconvenience of looking down into the instrument. The inventor intends in future developments to throw moving pictures of life-size figures on a screen, and by the aid of a perfected phonograph which can reproduce every vibration of the violin to perpetuate the voices concurrently with the gestures of orators and actors, and even to show entire scenes from operas and plays, with all the speeches and songs as well as the movements of the performers. The instruments at present exhibited are offered to the public at the price of £70 apiece. They can, however, only be regarded as an amusing toy and as a preliminary to the greater achievements that are promised in the future. Probably an improvement may be effected by reducing the rapidity of the display, for it is recognised in the science of optics that the human eye is incapable of appreciating more than eight impressions in a second, while Professor Tyndall places the number at only seven.

Comment: The Kinetoscope peepshow was introduced to the UK on 17 October 1894 at a press showing organised by Maguire & Baucus, Edison’s European agents, at 70 Oxford Street, London. There were ten machines on display, showing the Edison films Blacksmiths, Cock Fight, Annabelle Serpentine Dance, The Bar Room, Carmencita, Wrestling Match, Bertoldi and Barber Shop.

The Journals of Sydney Race

Source: Ann Featherstone (ed.), The Journals of Sydney Race 1892-1900: A Provincial View of Popular Entertainment (London: The Society for Theatre Research, 2007), p. 50

Text: February 1895
During this month Edison’s last greatest invention – the Kinetoscope showing living figures – has been on exhibition in a shop on the Long Row. The figures were contained in a big box and one looked down through a glass and saw them within.

I saw at different times a dancer and a barbers [sic] shop the latter with several figures and everything was true to life. The figures appear a brilliant white in outline on a black background but in the barber shop it was possible to distinguish a negro from the white man. The figures have been photographed continuously and two or three thousand of them are whirled before your eyes by Electricity in less than a minute.

Comment: Sydney Race (1875-1960) was the working-class son of a cotton mill engineer and worked as an insurance clerk in Nottingham. His private journal documents the different kinds of entertainment he witnessed in Nottingham. The Edison film he describes, Barber Shop (1893) (or its 1895 remake New Barber Shop), does not feature a black character.

Links:
Entry on Sydney Race at Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema