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

The Plastic Age

Source: Percy Marks, The Plastic Age (New York: The Century Co., 1924), pp. 24-28

Text: “Well,” he exclaimed, “that’s that! At last I know where I’m going. You certainly saved my life. I know where all the buildings are; so it ought to be easy.”

“Sure,” said Carl encouragingly; “it’s easy. Now there’s nothing to do till to-morrow until eight forty-five when we attend chapel to the glory of the Lord. I think I’ll pray to-morrow; I may need it. Christ! I hate to study.”

“Me, too,” Hugh lied. He really loved books, but somehow he couldn’t admit the fact, which had suddenly become shameful, to Carl. “Let’s go to the movies,” he suggested, changing the subject for safety.

“Right-o!” Carl put on his freshman cap and flung Hugh’s to him. “Gloria Nielsen is there, and she’s a pash baby. Ought to be a good fillum.”

The Blue and Orange – it was the only movie theater in town – was almost full when the boys arrived. Only a few seats near the front were still vacant. A freshman started down the aisle, his “baby bonnet” stuck jauntily on the back of his head.

“Freshman!”… “Kill him!”… “Murder the frosh!” Shouts came from all parts of the house, and an instant later hundreds of peanuts shot swiftly at the startled freshman. “Cap! Cap! Cap off!” There was a panic of excitement. Upper-classmen were standing on their chairs to get free throwing room. The freshman snatched off his cap, drew his head like a scared turtle down into his coat collar, and ran for a seat. Hugh and Carl tucked their caps into their coat pockets and attempted to stroll nonchalantly down the aisle. They hadn’t taken three steps before the bombardment began. Like their classmate, they ran for safety.

Then some one in the front of the theatre threw a peanut at some one in the rear. The fight was on! Yelling like madmen, the students stood on their chairs and hurled peanuts, the front and rear of the house automatically dividing into enemy camps. When the fight was at its hottest, three girls entered.

“Wimmen! Wimmen!” As the girls walked down the aisle, infinitely pleased with their reception, five hundred men stamped in time with their steps.

No sooner were the girls seated than there was a scramble in one corner, an excited scuffling of feet. “I’ve got it!” a boy screamed. He stood on his chair and held up a live mouse by its tail. There was a shout of applause and then – “Play catch!”

The boy dropped the writhing mouse into a peanut bag, screwed the open end tight-closed, and then threw the bag far across the room. Another boy caught it and threw it, this time over the girls’ heads. They screamed and jumped upon their chairs, holding their skirts, and dancing up and down in assumed terror. Back over their heads, back and over, again and again the bagged mouse was thrown while the girls screamed and the boys roared with delight. Suddenly one of he girls threw up her arm, caught the bag deftly, held it for a second, and then tossed it into the rear of the theater.

Cheers of terrifying violence broke loose: “Ray! Ray! Atta girl! Hot dog! Ray, ray!” And then the lights went out.

“Moosick! Moosick! Moo-sick!” The audience stamped and roared, whistled and howled. “Moosick! We want moosick!”

The pianist, an undergraduate, calmly strolled down the aisle.

“Get a move on!”… “Earn your salary!”… “Give us moosick!”

The pianist paused to thumb his nose casually at the entire audience, and then amid shouts and hisses sat down at the piano and began to play “Love Nest.”

Immediately the boys began to whistle, and as the comedy was utterly stupid, they relieved their boredom by whistling the various tunes that the pianist played until the miserable film flickered out.

Then the “feature” and the fun began. During the stretches of pure narrative, the boys whistled, but when there was any real action they talked. The picture was a melodrama of “love and hate,” as the advertisement said.

The boys told the actors what to do; they revealed to them the secrets of the plot. “She’s hiding behind the door, Harold. No, no! Not that way. Hey, dumbbell – behind the door.”… “Catch him, Gloria; he’s only shy!”… “No, that’s not him!”

The climactic fight brought shouts of encouragement – to the villain. “Kill him!”… “Shoot one to his kidneys!”… “Ahhhhh,” as the villain hit the hero in the stomach…. “Muss his hair. Attaboy!”… “Kill the skunk!” And finally groans of despair when the hero won his inevitable victory.

But it was the love scenes that aroused the greatest ardor and joy. The hero was given careful instructions. “Some neckin’, Harold!”… “Kiss her! Kiss her! Ahhh!”… “Harold, Harold, you’re getting rough!”… “She’s vamping you, Harold!”… “Stop it; Gloria; he’s a good boy.” And so on until the picture ended in the usual close-up of the hero and heroine silhouetted in a tender embrace against the setting sun. The boys breathed “Ahhhh” and “Ooooh” ecstatically – and laughed. The meretricious melodrama did not fool them, but they delighted in its absurdities.

The lights flashed on and the crowd filed out, “wise-cracking” about the picture and commenting favorably on the heroine’s figure. There were shouts to this fellow or that fellow to come on over and play bridge, and suggestions here and there to go to a drug store and get a drink.

Hugh and Carl strolled home over the dark campus, both of them radiant with excitement, Hugh frankly so.

Comments: Percy Marks (1891-1956) was an American author whose notorious novel of college life, The Plastic Age, was filmed under that title in 1925 (starring Clara Bow) and in 1929 as Red Lips.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Hale’s Tours of the World

Source: untitled, The Rinking World & Picture Theatre News, 25 December 1909, p. 14

Text: ‘Hale’s Tours of the World,’ in Oxford Street, hard by Messrs. Gilbey & Co.’s Pantheon, are at once the oldest-established and the most educative of all London’s picture shows. Nothing approaching them has in our day been designed or so effectively carried out. Time was when Hamilton’s Diarama’s were all the rage; these have no worthily supplanted them. Seated in a veritable Pullman car, which appears to be travelling on the ever-present metals through mountainous scenery, over bridges, across vast prairie lands, or Eastern deserts, as the case may be, the illusion is perfect. Not the slightest suspicion of cinematograph lantern rays have the quasi-travellers, for the reason that the views are thrown on the screen from a great distance behind … The conductor of the Pullman Car, who snips the tickets, lectures pleasantly all the time, though in the darkness he remains unseen. Moreover, throughout the imaginary journey, the travellers are treated to pervading sounds as well as sights. The shrill whistle of locomotive and steamboat, the fearsome syren [sic] of an ocean greyhound, the roar of falling waters or tossing sea waves, the pattering of rain, the rolling of thunder, and the shouts of people add a keen zest to the excursion. From a chat with Mr S.B. French, the Secretary, we learned that his company have a contract with the New South Wales Government for the regular supply of films, and also that their operating representatives enjoy a free run on the great American railroads, and on certain British railway systems.

Comments: Hale’s Tours of the World was an entertainment which placed the audience in a replica of a railway carriage, with a film taken from the front of a moving train projected onto a screen at the front of the carriage. The carriage rocked to and fro, there were sound effects, and the conductor served a lecturer to explain the films and the experience. It was invented by the American George Consider Hale and the first Hale’s Tours in Britain opened in London’s Oxford Street in May 1906. It was arguably the first cinema in London (the Daily Bioscope near Liverpool Street station opened the same month), hence the reference to it being the ‘oldest-established’ of London’s picture shows.

Hale’s Tours of the World

Source: untitled, The Rinking World & Picture Theatre News, 25 December 1909, p. 14

Text: ‘Hale’s Tours of the World,’ in Oxford Street, hard by Messrs. Gilbey & Co.’s Pantheon, are at once the oldest-established and the most educative of all London’s picture shows. Nothing approaching them has in our day been designed or so effectively carried out. Time was when Hamilton’s Diarama’s were all the rage; these have no worthily supplanted them. Seated in a veritable Pullman car, which appears to be travelling on the ever-present metals through mountainous scenery, over bridges, across vast prairie lands, or Eastern deserts, as the case may be, the illusion is perfect. Not the slightest suspicion of cinematograph lantern rays have the quasi-travellers, for the reason that the views are thrown on the screen from a great distance behind … The conductor of the Pullman Car, who snips the tickets, lectures pleasantly all the time, though in the darkness he remains unseen. Moreover, throughout the imaginary journey, the travellers are treated to pervading sounds as well as sights. The shrill whistle of locomotive and steamboat, the fearsome syren [sic] of an ocean greyhound, the roar of falling waters or tossing sea waves, the pattering of rain, the rolling of thunder, and the shouts of people add a keen zest to the excursion. From a chat with Mr S.B. French, the Secretary, we learned that his company have a contract with the New South Wales Government for the regular supply of films, and also that their operating representatives enjoy a free run on the great American railroads, and on certain British railway systems.

Comments: Hale’s Tours of the World was an entertainment which placed the audience in a replica of a railway carriage, with a film taken from the front of a moving train projected onto a screen at the front of the carriage. The carriage rocked to and fro, there were sound effects, and the conductor served a lecturer to explain the films and the experience. It was invented by the American George Consider Hale and the first Hale’s Tours in Britain opened in London’s Oxford Street in May 1906. It was arguably the first cinema in London (the Daily Bioscope near Liverpool Street station opened the same month), hence the reference to it being the ‘oldest-established’ of London’s picture shows.

A Time to Speak

Source: Anthony Quayle, A Time to Speak (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1990), p. 52

Text: What flicks they were in those days. Not only did they flicker, but they whirred. The pianist was usually thumping away too loud for you to hear the film running over the sprockets; but when the love scenes came and the piano went soft and mushy, then the projectionist came into his own. Every time Rudolph Valentino narrowed his eyes and the heroine shrank from him in mingled love and loathing, then, just as surely as the next caption would be ‘I Love You!’ and the one after would be ‘No, No!’, so without fail would be heard the whirring, chirring rattle of the projector.

Sometimes the machine broke down. When that happened the whole audience, Aggie and me included, would groan loudly; then, as the lights came on, we would all laugh and applaud ourselves for being such audacious wags. After a few minutes the lights would be turned out again to renewed cheers and whistles. The whirring started up once more, a few feet of film jerked onto the screen – only to suffer a further collapse. Louder groans from the audience: more ribald cheering. No one ever made a fuss or complained about breakdowns; they were accepted as part of the entertainment. You paid your money, you came out of the cold and rain, and whichever way things went you had a good time.

Comments: Anthony Quayle (1913-1989) was a British stage and film actor and theatre director. His family lived in Southport. Aggie was his maternal grandmother. At the time of this extract from his autobiography he was aged around eight.

British Cinemas and Their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 50-52

Text: NO. 17
AGE: 18 YRS. 8 MONTHS SEX: F.
FATHER: MECHANICAL ENGINEER, MOTHER: HOUSEWIFE
OCCUPATION: CIVIL SERVICE CLERK P.O. TELEPHONES
NATIONALITY: BRITISH

It was at the tender age of seven, when I first embarked upon the exciting and mysterious adventure of a visit to the cinema, under the supervision of Mother and Father; and ever since then, almost as far back as I can remember, I have had a deep interest in the film world and all concerned with it, an interest which increased in intensity as I grew older. The first film I saw was a silent one, and I remember leaving the cinema feeling rather excited and a wee bit sorry for some poor man, who had fallen head first into a barrel of flower [sic].

Time passed and I became more friendly with the other children in my street, and the excursions to the cinema became frequent and exciting exciting because I began to understand the actors and actresses, and the stories woven around them, which gave us youngsters our regular Saturday afternoon entertainment. To miss even one of these shows with my little playmates was a heart-rending disappointment, because I knew I should miss the next episode in the film serial. The latter was always my firm favourite, whatever the story. I hero-worshipped Larry Crabbe in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars. At this time I would be about nine years old, and even then I was quite jealous if anyone else had a photograph of Mr. Crabbe.

Films affected our play very much. Our second favourite was a good Western film, with plenty of shooting, fighting and fast riding. After becoming thoroughly worked up about Buck Jones or Ken Maynard, we would enact these films, in versions all our own, after school each day the following week.

Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse followed closely on my list in third place. I adored Walt Disney cartoons, and, if I may be so bold as to admit it – I still do!

I disliked animal pictures intensely, because they all made me weep. They might not have been sad, but still I choked up when one was showing. I think it may be as well to add here that in all these months of picturegoing I was never frightened by any film, indeed every film was such a new thrill and experience that I don’t think I ever thought of fear.

During this time, too, new words crept into my vocabulary, and I remember clearly that my parents were quite shocked when I first used the word ‘scram’ before them! I liked to copy expressions used by my favourite actors, and use them often. One of the latter was Shirley Temple, and I liked to think that I could give a very good impression of her singing ‘Animal Crackers’. She was a firm favourite of mine and my friends.

At the age of thirteen, when I was enjoying second year at high school, and when the Saturday trips to the local cinema had ceased, I was experiencing varied emotions as a result of picture-going. It was then that I first began to pick out the films I wanted to see, and to go not just out of habit or for the sake of going, but because I knew just what it was I had a desire to see. Passionate schoolgirl ‘crushes’ followed each other as new and handsome men made their appearances on the screen. Many were the nights I cried myself to sleep because John Howard, Preston Foster or Robert Taylor was so far away. One glimpse of any of them would have sufficed and I felt I would have been the happiest girl in the world. Possessing a vivid imagination, I had wonderful dreams of being discovered by a Hollywood talent-scout, of visiting Hollywood and perhaps even playing opposite one of my favourite movie stars.

But inevitably I had to put these preoccupations in the background because lessons and homework needed concentration; at the age of sixteen I matriculated, and a little later left school to earn my own living.

An important load off my mind, I was again free to think more and spend more time upon what had once been a cherished hobby. I found I had lost none of the former interest; indeed, I indulged in a little wishful dreaming, and the one temptation was to run away from home and become an actress like Jane Withers. This I knew could never materialise, circumstances would not permit, so I had to be content with regular film-going and collecting pictures and magazines.

Then I once remember having a desperate desire to become a nurse, when I saw Rosamund John act so wonderfully well in The Lamp Still Burns; but it was a mere whim because I liked the film so much, and passed away in a matter of days.

So to the present day. The cinema is my main source of entertainment, and I am not really difficult to please as far as films are concerned. I like most kinds of productions but my favourites are flying epics, such as A Guy Named Joe and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, and straight dramatic stories, of the kind that Old Acquaintance represents. I have a deep admiration for Van Johnson, Irene Dunne, Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy; I envy them because their kind of life is so far beyond my reach, because the work they do is so hard and so very interesting, a job after my own heart.

Films have a great influence upon me. I find myself trying to be original in my method of attire, and copy Hollywood beauty ‘tips’ when using make-up: I find it hard to control the emotions aroused by a touching or very dramatic scene, and I cry very easily. The desire to become an actress is still prevalent and my interest in drama has increased. Thus I have become rather dissatisfied with my present existence and with the neighbourhood in which I live, but I love home life and, until the world is at peace again and our loved ones are safely restored to us, I am content to remain as I am, and just to plan and dream about a long awaited trip to that intriguing city of Hollywood, to see for myself everything and everyone that contributes to the making of the entertainment I love so much.

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His British Cinemas and their Audiences collates motion picture autobiographies submitted through competitions in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘Films and the Pattern of Life’. The films mentioned are Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (USA 1938, serial), The Lamp Still Burns (UK 1943), A Guy Named Joe (USA 1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (USA 1944) and Old Acquaintance (USA 1943).