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19th Century Film

19th Century Film

A timeline of film history's major events, inventions, and developments in the 19th Century. Interactive with clickable details. Created by Adam Call Roberts at FilmsRanked.com

1825-04-02 00:00:00

First Commercial Thaumatrope

In the late years of the Regency era, several scientists observed an optical illusion that takes place while looking at spinning wheels. As Michael Faraday described it in 1831, there is a “persistence of a visual impression for a determinate interval’ after an object has been withdrawn or changed its place

1832-12-01 00:00:00

First Phenakistoscope

In 1832, animation was born. Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau created the very first moving picture – the image of a spinning doll. Plateau published his invention in the journal Correspondance Mathématique et Physique.

1867-04-23 00:00:00

Zoëtrope Patented

In the United States it was patented as the Zoëtrope on April 23, 1867 by William E. Lincoln – as an assignor to Milton Bradley.

1868-03-18 00:00:00

Flip Book Patented

Rather than “reading” left to right, a viewer simply stares at the same location of the images in the flip book as the pages turn

1875-02-06 00:00:00

Eadweard Muybridge Acquitted

In 1874, photographer Eadweard Muybridge killed Harry Larkyns in Calistoga, California, believing that Larkyns had seduced Muybridge’s wife and fathered the baby son Muybridge had believed was his own.

1876-11-09 00:00:00

1st Kinesigraph Patented

In 1876, anarchist Wordsworth Donisthrope patented a camera to take rapid photos that could be played back to create a movie picture. Records don’t show how well it worked, but in 1878 Donisthrope brainstormed an idea to synchronize moving pictures with Thomas Edison’s phonograph

1877-01-01 00:00:00

Praxinoscope Invented

The praxinoscope improved on the zoetrope by replacing its narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors, placed so that the reflections of the pictures appeared more or less stationary in position as the wheel turned.

1877-12-01 00:00:00

Phonograph Invented

In December 1877, Thomas Edison and his team invented the phonograph using a thin sheet of tin foil wrapped around a hand-cranked grooved metal cylinder

1878-06-15 00:00:00

The Horse in Motion

Photographer Eadweard Muybridge and his patron Leland Stanford worked through the 1870s to create cameras that could take photographs of objects in motion. The earliest film had to be exposed to the light for long periods of time. Moving objects would not show up, or would show up as a blur.

1879-11-04 00:00:00

Edison Bulb Patented

Thomas Edison began serious research into developing a practical incandescent lamp in 1878. Edison filed his first patent application for “Improvement in Electric Lights” on 14 October 1878

1882-01-01 00:00:00

Gun Patented

Étienne-Jules Marey spent the late 1870s and the 1880s developing the “chronophotographic gun.” The gun was an early movie camera that, by 1882, could capture 12 frames a second. Maray was among the first to switch from paper to celluloid.

1888-02-01 00:00:00

Edison Meets Muybridge

While there has been speculation that Edison’s interest in motion pictures began before 1888, the visit of Eadweard Muybridge to the inventor’s laboratory in West Orange in February of that year certainly stimulated Edison’s resolve to invent a motion picture camera.

1888-10-14 00:00:00

Roundhay Garden Scene

In 1888, Louis Le Prince built a camera with a single lens that could take photos with a short-shutter speed in rapid succession. Many historians consider this the true beginning of film. On October 14th, 1888, Le Prince captured a few seconds of his family walking around a garden in Leeds, England.

1888-12-01 00:00:00

Théâtre Optique Patented

Émile Reynaud developed his Praxinoscope device into the Théâtre Optique which could project longer sequences with separate backgrounds, and patented the machine in 1888

1889-01-01 00:00:00

2nd Kinesigraph Patented

In 1876, anarchist Wordsworth Donisthrope patented a camera to take rapid photos that could be played back to create a movie picture. Records don’t show how well it worked, but in 1878 Donisthrope brainstormed an idea to synchronize moving pictures with Thomas Edison’s phonograph

1889-06-01 00:00:00

Edison Hires Dickson

Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, was given the task of inventing the device in June 1889, possibly because of his background as a photographer. Charles A. Brown was made Dickson’s assistant

1890-05-30 00:00:00

Mosquinha

Étienne-Jules Marey spent the late 1870s and the 1880s developing the “chronophotographic gun.” The gun was an early movie camera that, by 1882, could capture 12 frames a second. Maray was among the first to switch from paper to celluloid.

1890-06-30 00:00:00

London's Trafalgar Square

In 1876, anarchist Wordsworth Donisthrope patented a camera to take rapid photos that could be played back to create a movie picture. Records don’t show how well it worked, but in 1878 Donisthrope brainstormed an idea to synchronize moving pictures with Thomas Edison’s phonograph

1890-09-16 00:00:00

Louis Le Prince Disappears

In September 1890, Le Prince planned a trip to the UK to patent his camera and then to the U.S. to promote it. He boarded a train and was never seen again. His body, his luggage, and his invention were never found. Le Prince’s family blamed Edison, who they believed wanted to claim invention of the movies for himself.

1890-11-21 00:00:00

Monkeyshines

In 1888, Eadweard Muybridge met with Thomas Edison in New Jersey and the two talked about ways to unite Muybridge’s experiments with motion pictures and Edison’s invention of the phonograph. Edison began filing patents, saying he wanted to “do for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.

1891-05-20 00:00:00

Kinetoscope Displayed

On May 20, 1891, Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope was displayed in public for the first time. Edison showed off short films made at his laboratory by William K. L. Dickson, including this one of Dickson greeting us by holding his hat.

1891-06-30 00:00:00

Je vous aime

In 1891, there were two centers of filmmaking, an American center and a French center. The French center comprised of Étienne-Jules Marey and his gun-shaped camera, “the Chronophotograph.” Marey trained Georges Demeny to use the machine

1891-08-24 00:00:00

Kinetograph Patented

In 1888, Eadweard Muybridge met with Thomas Edison in New Jersey and the two talked about ways to unite Muybridge’s experiments with motion pictures and Edison’s invention of the phonograph. Edison began filing patents, saying he wanted to “do for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.

1892-10-28 00:00:00

Pauvre Pierrot

Poor Pete is the only survivor of Reynaud’s “Patnomimes Luminesuses.” He exhibited it along with several others at the Musée Grevin in Paris, presenting “the first animated pictures shown publicly on a screen by means of long, transparent bands of images.”

1892-12-01 00:00:00

Black Maria Started

In 1893, the world’s first film production studio, the Black Maria, or the cinematographic Theater, was completed on the grounds of Edison’s laboratories at West Orange, New Jersey, for the purpose of making film strips for the Kinetoscope

1893-05-01 00:00:00

World's Columbian Exposition

The Elektrotachyscope was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 as “Greatest Wonder of the World”.

1893-05-09 00:00:00

First Paid Actors

Blacksmith Scene marks the first time actors were paid to play a role on film. Previous films had either been experimental, short snippets of real life called “actualities,” or in the case of Pauvre Pierrot, animated

1894-01-01 00:00:00

World's First Cat Video

Now billed online as the “World’s First Cat Video,” Marey created the film for reasons similar to why Eadweard Muybridge invented his camera back in 1877 – to settle a debate over how animals move. In Marey’s case, he was examining the “falling cat problem

1894-08-31 00:00:00

First Sound Film

The “Dickson Experimental Sound Film” is the world’s first of its kind. You can see William K.L. Dickson standing next to a large recording horn and playing the violin while two men dance. The sound was recorded separately from the film, and it’s not clear if they were ever successfully synchronized until 1998.

1894-09-20 00:00:00

Annabelle Butterfly Dance

This is one of several short films Annabelle Moore made with Edison’s studio. Some of her later dances would be hand-tinted, but this early one was not.

1894-11-17 00:00:00

Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph

The second of two boxing matches filmed by Thomas Edison’s team matched the then-current Heavyweight Champion James Corbett against Peter Courtney. They faced off in an exhibition of 6 rounds lasting 1 minute each. Corbett often performed exhibitions on the stage, and made more money from vaudeville than from fighting.

1895-11-01 00:00:00

1st Paid Public Screening

Brothers Max and Emil Skladanowsky displayed the first projected motion pictures to a public, paying audience in the Wintergarten Ballroom in Berlin on November 1, 1895, beating the Lumière Brothers to the miletone by more than a month. Their films were made with the “Bioscop,” a camera of their own invention.

1895-12-28 00:00:00

Lumière Brothers screen films in Paris

The Lumières gave their first paid public screening on 28 December 1895, at Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris. This presentation consisted of 10 short films, lasting 50 seconds each.

1896-01-01 00:00:00

First Female Director

Alice Guy saw a Lumière Brothers projection in 1895, and walked away inspired – and also seeing a future for film beyond what the Lumières did. She worked for a photography company and convinced her boss to fund her experiments in cinema.

1896-01-25 00:00:00

The Legendary Train

This film is most famous for the legend behind it. The story goes that at its initial screenings, the audience mistook the filmic train for a real one and panicked. I find that a bit hard to believe. These people have certainly seen photographs before

1896-12-24 00:00:00

First Horror Film

With Méliès, film truly became an art.

1897-01-01 00:00:00

The Surrender of Tournavos

In 1897, Méliès tried his hand at war films, making four short movies to illustrate the brief Greco-Turkish War. The only surviving film of the four is this one, depicting an Ottoman victory in Tournavos.

1897-01-01 00:00:00

First Simulated Nudity

Méliès wasn’t all high-brow fantasy. After the Ball is a (very) softcore pornographic movie. It may be the first time simulated nudity was shown on film; 1896’s Le Coucher de la Mariée (dir. Albert Kirchner) is mostly lost and so we don’t know just how nude the actress became.

1897-01-01 00:00:00

Vitagraph Studios Founded

In 1896, English émigré Blackton was moonlighting as a reporter/artist for the New York Evening World when he was sent to interview Thomas Edison about his new film projector. The inventor talked the entrepreneurial reporter into buying a set of films and a projector

1897-05-22 00:00:00

First Feature Film

Enoch Rector was a former employee of Edison’s lab, who set out on his own. He teamed up with some partners to arrange a filmed fight for the World Heavyweight Title – with the filmmakers taking half the proceeds.

1897-06-01 00:00:00

Self Promotion

Never one to pass up an opportunity at self-promotion, Thomas Edison had his studio create a set to resemble the type of chemical lab Americans might imagine a genius like Edison would use. Edison appears in a full lab coat, moves some equipment around and appears to pour something.

1898-01-01 00:00:00

Up The Eiffel Tower

Still interesting to see today, “Panorama pendant l’ascension de la tour eiffe” must have been thrilling when it first came out. Never before had a camera been so high. The Lumières were the first filmmakers to capture the Eiffel Tower; its presence in cinema today is ubiquitous enough to be unclichéable

1898-04-21 00:00:00

Spanish-American War Films

The Spanish-American War was the first was in which film played a major role.

1898-11-02 00:00:00

A Trip to the Moon

Often confused with Méliès’ better-known 1902 A Trip to the Moon, I actually prefer this to its successor in some ways. It’s certainly funnier. I tried out an experiment on my 4-year-old son. I first played this film (labeled The Astronomer’s Dream on the DVD set) and then played the 1902 Trip to the Moon

1898-11-02 00:00:00

Multiple Exposure Magic

Méliès’ past as a stage magician was on full display in Un homme de têtes. Set the technical achievement aside for a moment, and look at the joy on Méliès’ face(s) as he shows off his trick

1899-09-01 00:00:00

Film Journalism

Méliès’ “L’Affaire Dreyfus” was released in September 1899, the same month Alfred Dreyfus was convicted in his re-trial, but pardoned and released. Méliès released 11 short films covering the affair over the past 5 years. Each part lasts a little longer than a minute. Nine survive

1899-09-20 00:00:00

Shakespeare On Film

The first known Shakespearean adaptation was made to promote a stage production of King John in London. The crew filmed four brief scenes, of which only one survives: King John’s Death Scene.

1899-11-01 00:00:00

Narrative Film Editing

This film is regarded as the first example of narrative film editing, meaning the filmmakers spliced together different shots to tell a story. But the filmmakers didn’t do the editing themselves.

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