This Day in History – August 31st, 1897

Edison demonstrates the camera to US President Calvin.

Edison demonstrates the camera to US President Calvin.

On August 31st, 1897, Thomas Edison patented the Kinetograph (a motion picture camera). Most of this work was performed by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, beginning in 1888. Motion pictures became a successful entertainment industry in less than a decade, with single-viewer Kinetoscopes giving way to films projected for mass audiences. The Edison Manufacturing Co. (later known as Thomas A. Edison, Inc.) not only built the apparatus for filming and projecting motion pictures, but also produced films for public consumption. Most early examples were actualities showing famous people, news events, disasters, people at work, new modes of travel and technology, scenic views, expositions, and other leisure activities. As actualities declined in popularity, the company’s production emphasis shifted to comedies and dramas.

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