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American Cinema 1890-1909

American Cinema 1890-1909: Themes and Variations

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    American Cinema 1890-1909
    Book Description:

    At the turn of the twentieth century, cinema was quickly establishing itself as a legitimate form of popular entertainment.

    The essays inAmerican Cinema 1890-1909explore and define how the making of motion pictures flowered into an industry that would finally become the central entertainment institution of the world. Beginning with all the early types of pictures that moved, this volume tells the story of the invention and consolidation of the various processes that gave rise to what we now call "cinema." By examining the battles over patents, production, exhibition, and the reception of film, readers learn how going to the movies became a social tradition in American society.

    In the course of these two decades, cinema succeeded both in establishing itself among other entertainment and instructional media and in updating various forms of spectacle.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4644-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    André Gaudreault
  4. TIMELINE: 1890–1909
    (pp. xiii-xix)
  5. INTRODUCTION: American Cinema Emerges (1890–1909)
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book deals with a very special topic: the beginnings. The beginnings ofcinema, some would say. The beginnings ofmoving pictures, others would say. Or, to use less familiar terms—but terms that would have been familiar in the period covered by this book—the beginnings ofanimated viewsoranimated pictures. The choice of words in the question we intend to formulate here is important, because each could give rise to a different answer. The answer to the question “Who invented the movies?” is not necessarily the same as the answer to the question “Who invented cinema?” or...

  6. 1890–1895 Movies and the Kinetoscope
    (pp. 22-44)

    The period between 1890 and 1895 was a rich one in terms of scientific, cultural, and social developments, but it was also a period of growing unrest. Karl Benz constructed the first automobile on four wheels and Henry Ford built his first gasoline-powered engine. Women’s suffrage was adopted in Colorado. Coxey’s army marched from Ohio to Washington to protest widespread unemployment. Workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company struck and Eugene Debs’s American Railway Union declared a sympathy strike. Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays; Guglielmo Marconi invented radio telegraphy. For the first time people heard Mahler’s Second and Dvořák’s “New World”...

  7. 1896–1897 Movies and the Beginnings of Cinema
    (pp. 45-65)

    The “cinema,” defined here as projected motion pictures in a theatrical setting, was one of the major technological and cultural innovations of 1896–1897. But it shared this distinction with the X-ray, discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen in late 1895, which gained public attention during the same period. While the cinema captured and re-presented images of life in motion, by early 1896 the X-ray was used to produce photographs of what could not be seen (the invisible). In March 1896 Thomas A. Edison used X-rays to develop the fluoroscope, which had medical applications. As cinema and the X-ray entered the public...

  8. 1898–1899 Movies and Entrepreneurs
    (pp. 66-90)

    Movies were invented to make money, and although they would later come to be recognized as a medium capable of great artistic achievement, the North American motion picture industry of the last two years of the 1800s was not primarily concerned with art. In 1898 inventor C. Francis Jenkins publishedAnimated Pictures, a historical survey of the technological development of motion pictures. In a section titled “A Multinomial Machine,” Jenkins provided a “selected” list of names for over one hundred motion picture machines, relating only to cameras and projectors incorporating the Latin and Greek root words “graph” and “scope,” that...

  9. 1900–1901 Movies, New Imperialism, and the New Century
    (pp. 91-111)

    The years 1900–1901 were a time of flux in the new “moving picture” industry (see MusserEmergence). The patents war between Edison and the other film companies had cast the industry into a major crisis. At the turn of the twentieth century, the cinema was a relatively modest part of popular attractions and was still no more than an interloper in the world of legitimate art. It responded to current cultural and political events more than it created original stories: historical events are tied up in the development of filmmaking, a fact that receives due recognition in the present...

  10. 1902–1903 Movies, Stories, and Attractions
    (pp. 112-132)

    By 1902 and 1903 motion pictures had been shown publicly throughout the United States for more than five years. These two years mark a transitional period in which cinema no longer could be considered a novelty, but had not yet achieved an independent identity in terms of regular production modes, set venues of exhibition, or even stable patterns for films themselves. Cinema was evolving an identity as a new form of entertainment beyond the technical novelty or “canned vaudeville” that marked its origins. Most films made and shown in the United States in these years were brief, often no more...

  11. 1904–1905 Movies and Chasing the Missing Link(s)
    (pp. 133-157)

    As far as the development of motion pictures is concerned, 1904 and 1905 could be seen as years of revolution and, at the same time, of consolidation of production and exhibition. As far as production is concerned, these are the years when the chase film came on the scene; it would play a key role in the evolution of what we call “film form.” With respect to exhibition, these are the years in which itinerant exhibition gave way to fixed-venue exhibition. These two developments were the most emblematic of the transformations—mutations, we might say—taking place in the newborn...

  12. 1906 Movies and Spectacle
    (pp. 158-178)

    New institutions that staged grand displays, impressive performances, or “spectacle” characterized turn-of-the-century modern life. Department stores featured magnificent architecture and fabulous displays of material goods. Grandiose international expositions provided immersive catalogues of culture. Dime museums dramatized and sensationalized topics and celebrities of the day. Traveling panoramas offered large-scale depictions of history and landscapes. Newly built electric amusement parks (early exhibition sites for cinema) provided a carnival of noise, light, and motion. But the definitive mode of modern spectacle was the motion picture and, in this year, new approaches to movies secured the status of motion pictures as spectacle.

    The social...

  13. 1907 Movies and the Expansion of the Audience
    (pp. 179-201)

    The economy verged on a depression that climaxed in a run on the banks in October known as the Panic of 1907. Immigration reached a peak of 1.3 million new Americans, chiefly from southern and eastern Europe, an infusion of culture distinct from earlier German and Irish immigrations. Concerns about the ever-larger waves of immigrants led to the Immigration Act of 1907, which tightened the restrictions on those who could enter the country. During the summer, the San Francisco streetcar strike by the Carmen’s Union split the city known for its strong municipal political support for organized labor. The strike...

  14. 1908 Movies and Other Media
    (pp. 202-224)

    Asked what achievements history would remember from this year, a dozen leaders in different fields had difficulty reaching a consensus, although several agreed that recent advances in aviation, including the Wright brothers’ successful passenger flights and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s sustained dirigible flights in Germany would prove significant. Others pointed to the Root-Takahira Agreement, which averted possible war with Japan by settling U.S. and Japanese colonial interests in East Asia (“Striking Events”). In retrospect, one could add the introduction of the Model T automobile by the Ford Motor Company and the discovery of oil in the Middle East by the...

  15. 1909 Movies and Progress
    (pp. 225-246)

    Talk of progress was everywhere in the air. I mean this quite literally if we recall that one sunny July afternoon Orville Wright flew a two-seater airplane with a passenger for just over sixty minutes at an average speed of forty miles per hour. The landing was safe, a record was set, and what followed marked the onset of military aviation: the Wright brothers sold the aircraft to the Army’s Aeronautical Division, the U.S. Signal Corps. Then again, what the airplane did for the army, the railway did for another government agency, the U.S. Postal Service. On 22 May the...

    (pp. 247-248)
    (pp. 249-254)
    (pp. 255-256)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 257-268)