Mutoscopes, Market Street Parlors, and Moralistic Outrage

SFSFF blog post by Christine U'Ren

Fun, One Cent, etching by John Sloan, 1905, shows young girls viewing Mutoscopes. Notice the distinctive clamshell design and salacious titles over some of the machines.

Just in time for George Willeman's upcoming SFSFF 2017 Amazing Tales from the Archives presentation on Edison Kinetophones, Christine U'Ren has contributed a multi-part series on the earliest movies. This is part two. Read part one first! 

Partly because of Kinetoscopes' high cost, other inventors began to sense opportunities in the motion-picture business. The Lumière Brothers, whose associates considered Edison's film prices "crazy," according to David Robinson, began working to develop their own machines and movies, inspired by a Kinetoscope exhibition in Paris (Edison had not patented the machine internationally, so the design could be liberally built upon in Europe). In late 1894, W.K.L. Dickson, perhaps disgruntled with his treatment at Edison's company (which he left a few months later), passed an idea for a new peep-show machine to Herman Norton Marvin and Herman Casler. Casler would perfect the device and patent it as the Mutoscope. Dickson, Marvin, Casler and a fourth, Elias Bernard Koopman, formed the American Mutoscope Company (AMC) in December 1895. It would eventually morph into the Biograph studio and create some of early cinema's most important films, as well as launch the movie careers of Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith, and others. But in 1895, the company was mainly concerned with beating Edison technology...

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