24 August 2016
Thomas Edison filed a patent for the motion picture camera on 24 August 1891
On this day in history, 1891: Thomas Edison files a patent for the motion picture camera.
Thomas Alva Edison (11 February 1847-18 October 1931) was an American inventor and businessman, possibly best known as the inventor of the electric lightbulb. However, he developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and the motion picture camera.
Edison held 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the UK, France and Germany. More significant than the number of Edison's patents was the widespread impact of his inventions: electric light and power utilities, sound recording, and motion pictures all established major new industries worldwide.
Edison filed a patent for the motion picture camera or ‘Kinetograph’ on 24 August 1891, which was granted on 31 August 1897. He did the electromechanical design, while his employee W K L Dickson, a photographer, worked on the photographic and optical development. In 1891 Edison's Kinetoscope, or peep-hole viewer, was installed in penny arcades, where people could watch short, simple films.
Edison's film studio made close to 1,200 films. The majority of the productions were short films showing everything from acrobats to parades to fire calls including titles such as Fred Ott's Sneeze (1894), The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1910), and the first Frankenstein film in 1910.
As the film business expanded competing exhibitors routinely copied and exhibited each other's films. To better protect the copyrights on his films, Edison deposited prints of them on long strips of photographic paper with the US copyright office. Many of these paper prints survived longer and in better condition than the actual films of that era.
Pictured: Thomas Alva Edison, c1922.