Taking flight

taube

German aviator Otto Linnekogel with camera operator on a Rumpler Taube, from Flight 15 May 1914

While the growth in digitised historic newspaper collections has proved a huge boon for the silent film researcher, there are specialist journals now being digitised and made available online which hold valuable material that one might not immediately suspect was there. A model example has recently been made available, Flight.

Flightglobal has put up the entirety of Flight magazine, from 1909 to 2005. Every issue has been scanned and is fully searchable in PDF format. There are save and print options, and you can copy and paste the uncorrected OCR text from the PDFs. Searching is by keyword or you can browse by year, and with each search result it is easy to browse back and forth from page to page, handily visible in thumbnail form. The term you have search for is highlighted on the PDF. Search can be limited by date range, so it is easy to narrow things down to our era. It’s a model service, and it’s all free.

And there is plenty there on motion pictures. Film and flight grew up together, with some of the pioneers of sequence photography being closely allied to those experimenting with powered flight towards the end of the nineteenth century, and as each made its appearance on the public stage they fed off each other (an essay I wrote on this subject is available from my personal site, here). For many people, the first sight they had of an aeroplane was not in the sky but on a cinema screen, when newsfilms such as those of the influential Rheims airshow of 1909 (the first gathering of the world’s aviators) amazed audiences everywhere. Films recorded the great aviators of those heroic times, they promoted air races and air meetings, they created exciting dramas in which aviators and their machines served as natural heroes. In return, aviation revelled in the attention the cinema brought to the field, used the cinematograph as demonstration of the feats aviators could achieve, equipped planes with cameras, and planes were used as speedy means of transporting films.

All of this can be traced through the pages of Flight. Useful search terms to use include ‘cinematograph’, ‘cinemato’ (often the fuller word is broken up), ‘bioscope’, ‘kinematograph’, ‘cinema’, ‘films’ and ‘Pathe’. For example, searching under ‘bioscope’ gives you this report from 25 April 1914 of aviator B.C. Hucks and unnamed newsreel operator filming the Royal Yacht in the English channel:

On Tuesday morning after a trial flight with the operator to get him used to his peculiar position—he faced towards the tail—I started off across the Channel at exactly 11 a.m. in brilliant sunshine and very little wind, exactly half an hour after the departure of the Royal Yacht from Dover. It took me some time to pick up the Royal Yacht as there was a considerable mist on the surface of the sea, but after about fifteen minutes’ flying, I noticed a haze of smoke and as this was the only sign of activity in the neighbourhood I made for it and discovered my quarry. The French cruisers had already joined the escort, and to give my operator every facility I dived down to about 400 ft. and enabled him to get a fine picture of the mid-Channel scene.

I circled the fleet completely on three occasions, being then right out of sight of land. As we were nearing Calais I hovered about and flew over Calais Harbour at the precise moment of the entry of Their Majesties’ Yacht, when my photographer obtained what turned out to be a most magnificent and novel film. I then made direct for the Calais Aerodrome, flying over the town at 800 ft, I landed at 12 noon, when I was presented with a bouquet from the Mayor of Calais and also learnt that I was the first English airman to land at Calais.

The operator then extracted the exposed film which I fixed in the passenger seat of my machine together with the bouquet, and at 1.45 I started off for Hendon. I struck the English coast at the exact point of my departure, followed the railway line to Ashford, and on reaching the outskirts of London, I took last year’s Aerial Derby course to Hendon, where I arrived at 2.35. I had covered the 125 miles in 110 minutes. The journey overland was a very bumpy one, there being a terrible lot of remous owing to the extreme heat of the sun.

On landing, the film was handed to a representative of the Warwick Bioscope Chronicle Film, and rushed off to Charing Cross Road, where it was developed, a print made, and a complete record of the King’s journey from London to Calais was shown at the matinee performance at the Coliseum at 5.20. Actually, the film was delivered to the Coliseum at 4.45.

Flight and film were both equated with speed and modernity – the one recorded the instant moment, the other could deliver it to you before it had lost any freshness. Aviation clearly revelled in its association with film. It enjoyed asserting its superiority by telling tales of nervous cameramen filming stunts while on board, but also emphasised the cinematograph’s value as documentary record. There was commercial sense involved as well, as some of the long-distance flights such as those undertaken by Alan Cobham in the 1920s were part-financed by the filming rights. There is also interest in aviation as the subject of film drama, as in this report from 18 December 1914, which concerns British aviator Claude Grahame-White:

I was greatly interested in a “trial run” of a new Imp cinematograph drama produced for the Trans-Atlantic Film Co. Ltd., entitled, “The Secret of the Air.” It will be “released” on January 21st, 1915, and should appeal to a number of FLIGHT readers, since it shows, incidentally to the “story,” several scenes from Hendon at its best in bright sunlight as we all like to remember it. It would not be fair to reveal the plot, but it is sufficient to state that the airman’s part is played by Claude Grahame-White, who, in those days, before the war claimed his services in a more serious capacity, revealed himself as an amateur film actor of no mean order. Among the other scenes witnessed on this film, and only indirectly connected with the “story,” is a very exciting start by the late Gustav Hamel on his 50 h.p. Bleriot in a nasty side wind, and an equally fine landing showing Hamel in his best form. As a reminiscence of Hendon’s great days, “The Secret of the Air” is well worth seeing, apart from the interest attached to the “plot.”

There is much to be discovered, though little that I have found so far in the way of handy illustration – just the one photograph, reproduced above, of a camera on board a plane, plus several images from the air taken from films. Anyway, a very welcome new resource, and my thanks to Nick Hiley for drawing it to my attention. Go explore.

Making of America

moa_cornell

The recent piece on ‘The Kinetoscope of Time‘ alerted me to Making of America, an online library of digitised primary sources on America social history “from the antebellum period through reconstruction”. This project, managed jointly by Cornell University Library and the University of Michigan, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, began in 1995. The current digital libraries are available on two websites, and they contain a number of documents on pre-cinema and early motion pictures.

The Cornell University Library site is based upon 109 monographs (267 volumes) and 22 journals (955 volumes) dating primarily between 1840-1900. The twenty-two journals used include The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, The North American Review and Scribner’s Magazine. There are also numerous digitsed books. With the 1900 cut-off date, we are looking at the earliest years of motion pictures, along with the so-called pre-cinema era, and profitable keywords to employ include Kinetoscope, Cinematograph, and Magic Lantern. Here are some of the stand-out texts available:

The University of Michigan’s site boasts an amazing 10,000 books and 50,000 journal articles from 19th century imprints. The subject browsing option appears to contain no keywords for motion pictures or their precursors, and I have found nothing of any consequence in our field – others may be able to say otherwise.

Pathé treasures

patheposters

http://www.fondation-jeromeseydoux-pathe.com

Here’s a real treasure trove. The Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé is an organisation deciated to collecting documents and artefacts (everything, in effect, except the films) relating to Pathé. Their collection, based in Paris, comprises photographs, posters, business documents, cinematograph machinery, books, periodicals, scripts, brochures, designs… seemingly everything connected with the business empire created by Charles Pathé.

Examples of these can be found on their stylish, Flash-driven website, which has background information on each type of collection, and a useful historical timeline from the 1890s to the present day. There is also information on a Pathé filmography which they are producing, building on the herculean work undertaken by Henri Bousquet (who has produced several volumes documenting the output of Pathé in the silent era) and others. The site is, please note, all in French.

pathesearch

Sample search results from the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé database

The Fondation has now produced a database of its holdings (accessible from this link or via the Collections section of the site – click on Base de données). The database provides preliminary information on over 25,000 artefacts, designed to assist any researcher prior to their visiting the Fondation in person. It’s easy to use (again, all in French), and a sample search under Ferdinand Zecca (Charles Pathé’s right-hand man in the early days) yields 219 results. Many of the search results come with an associated image, creating a marvellously rich gallery of Pathé history (just look at all the extraordinary posters for the first Pathé productions if you search under Zecca).

Jérôme Seydoux is head of the Pathé and his brother Nicolas Seydoux head of the Gaumont group. Gaumont and Pathé cinemas are now merged (as EuroPalaces), as are the Gaumont-Pathé Archives. You can find the whole complex history the Ketupa site (a useful resource in itself for media ownership history).

My thanks to Mariann Sträuli for alerting to me to this site.

Update (June 2009): The filmography is now available (1896-1913).

Quebec and Québec

F. Guy Bradford (left), Joe Rosenthal (right) and the Living Canada travelling company, c.1903 (Cinémathèque québécoise)

Another day, another site goes up with unique silent film content, richly contextualised. Truly the online world is our archive. This time it is Le cinéma au Québec au temps du muet/Cinema in Quebec in Silent Era, an impeccably bilingual site giving us the history of early cinema in Quebec, Canada.

Quebec has a distinctive early film history. It is a tale coloured by its geography, its French heritage, local regulations, audiences and enthusiasms, and by snow. Particularly, it is a tale shaped by the dedicated efforts of a hardy band of pioneers, such as James Freer, Henry de Grandsaignes d’Hauterives and Léo-Ernest Ouimet. It is a tale of travelling cameramen (Joe Rosenthal, William Paley) and travelling exhibitors (F. Guy Bradford), an adventurous cinema with a spirit of newness and discovery about it.

The site has been put together with impressive thoroughness and local pride. There are extensive, knowledgable texts on such themes as the history of cinema in the area, biographies, audiences, film companies, sponsorship (the Canadian Pacific Railway made much use of film to promote its activites), censorship and travelling cinema. There are twenty or so films, available in low and high bandwidth, mostly non-fiction, including such titles as Skiing at Quebec (Edison 1902), Mes espérances en 1908 (Ouimet 1908), The Building of a Transcontinental Railway in Canada (Butcher 1909), Put Yourself in their Place (Vitagraph 1912 – fiction film set in Quebec) and the sobering Forty Thousand Feet of Rejected Film Destroyed by Ontario Censor Board (James and Sons 1916). All have musical accompaniment by Canada’s own Gabriel Thibaudeau.

There are also three lively ‘interactive journeys’ which you can take through the ‘Rural Milieu (1897-1905)’, ‘Working-Class Milieu (1906-1914)’ and ‘Middle-Class Milieu (1915-1930)’, which is an interesting way in which to divide up cinema history. Plus you will find documents, photographs, further background texts (some in French, some in English, some in both), and educational activities and a good, eclectic set of links (where you may learn that The Bioscope is ‘Plus qu’un blogue’ – merci beaucoup). An historical timeline is also offered, though I’ve not been able to make the link work. All in all, an exceptional piece of work, lovingly constructed, with discoveries a-plenty to be made.

The site is a collaborative effort between GRAFICS, the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the Cinémathèque québécoise. Acknowledgments to Bruce Calvert on the indispensible silent film forum Nitrateville for information on this site.

For your selection

Australian Newspapers beta, http://ndpbeta.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/home

As regular readers will know, the Bioscope tries to keep an eye on the various newspaper and journal digitisation projects taking place around the world, some commercially-driven, some undertaken with public money. One long-awaited project has been the Australian Newspaper Digitisation Program, which has just reached the Beta test stage.

The National Library of Australia, in collaboration the Australian State and Territory libraries, is undertaking a huge, long-term programme to digitise out of copyright Australian newspapers. The aim is to produce a free online service allowing full-text searching of newspapers published in each Australian state an territory, from 1803 (when the first Australian newspaper was published, in Sydney), to 1954, when copyright kicks in (intriguingly late).

The programme is ongoing, but on 25 July a Beta service was released to the public, offering 70,000 newspaper pages from 1803 onwards, with additional pages to be added each week (as of 8 August there are 91,577 pages available). The service is very much in test mode, and they request that users provide feedback (while bearing in mind that the service is not official as yet).

So, how do we go about using it, and what is there to find on silent film? Simple search options are by any word within a text (uncorrected OCR), newspaper title (currently eleven on offer), state and date (with an attractively laid-out calendar option). You can use inverted commas to search on a phrase. The many advanced search options include combinations of terms, range of dates, length of article, and the option to search under types of article – advertising, detailed lists etc., family notices, news, and illustrated. You can also sort results by relevance, earliest or most recent date. In short, all the useful options that you would hope to see.

Article display page

Search results give a list of article titles with the name of the newspaper, date, page number and the first few lines of OCRed text. Most usefully, you are also given links for the same search term to the Australian National Bibiliographic Database and Picture Australia. The Article Display page, as illustrated above, shows the article with the search term highlighted, a zoom option and option to see the full page. On the left is the uncorrected OCR text, and options to add your own tags or comments (if you are logged in). And you can print, save as PDF, or save as image. Which pretty much covers everything.

On film subjects, there is plenty – though with some surprising gaps, probably explained by the absence of those editions yet to be digitised. Inevitably, there much to be found on the early Australian film business itself. So, our traditional text term ‘kinetoscope’ yields only two hits (both from the 1920s). ‘Charlie Chaplin’ scores 927, ‘Mary Pickford’ 600, ‘Norma Talmadge’ 175, ‘Kinemacolor’ 32, ‘Vitagraph’ 123, ‘Cinematograph’ 685, and so on. Turning to Australian silent films, good subjects to investigate include ‘On Our Selection’ (280, but that includes stage versions and the 1932 sound film as well as the 1920 silent), ‘West’s Pictures’ (281 for a renowned exhibitor), ‘Frank Hurley’ (83 for Australia’s national photographer), ‘Australasian Films’ (79 for the leading native film company) and ‘Raymond Longford’ (27 for the film director).

Finally, if you visit the Browse page, there’s a list of all the tags (keywords) that have been used to classify items – these include ‘classic movies’, ‘movie stars’ and ‘silent films’, but sadly only one article so far is so described. Time for us all to get tagging.

I’ll be doing a fresh round-up of newspaper digitisation sites some time soon. Meanwhile, go explore.

The nightside of Japan

As evidence of the value of Live Search for searching across the texts of books digitised by the Internet Archive (see previous post), here’s a passage from The Nightside of Japan, by Taizo Fujimoto, published in 1914. It’s a travel book on Japan written for a Western audience by a Japanese writer, and it includes this marvellously vivid portrait of attending a cinema show in Tokyo at this time, complete with benshi narrator, interval acts and food sellers.

The Asakusa is the centre of pleasure in Tokyo. People of every rank in the city crowd in the park day and night old and young, high and low, male and female, rich and poor. It is also a haunt of ruffians, thieves, and pickpockets when the curtain of the dark comes down over the park. All houses and shops along each street in the park are illuminated with the electric and gas lights. The most noisy and crowded part is the site of cinematograph halls. In front of a hall you see many large painted pictures,
illustrating kinds of pictures to be shown in the hall, and, at its entrance, three or four men are crying to call visitors: “Come in, come in! Our pictures are newest ones, most wonderful pictures! Most lately imported from Europe! “Men of another hall cry out: “Our hall gives the photographs of a play performed by the first-class actors in Tokyo; pictures of the revenge of Forty Seven Ronine!” Tickets are sold by girls in a booking-box near the entrance of each hall; they are dressed in beautiful uniforms, their faces painted nicely, receiving guests with charming smiles. Most of the Japanese carry geta (clogs) under their feet, instead of shoes or boots, and specially so are the females. When you come into the door of a hall, tickets are to be handed to the men, who furnish you zori (a pair of straw or grass-slippers) in place of your geta, and you must not forget to receive from them a wood-card marked with numerals or some other signs the card being the cheque for your clogs. When you step on upstairs you are received by another nice girl in uniform, who guides you to a seat in the hall. Now the hall is full of people; it seems that there is no room for a newcomer, but the guide girl finds out a chair among the crowd and adjusts it to you very kindly. Pictures of cinematograph are shown one after another, each being explained by orators in frock or evening coat. Between the photograph shows performance of comic actors or jugglers is given. After the end of each picture or performance there is an entr’acte of three or five minutes, and in this interval sellers of oranges, milk, cakes, sandwiches, etc., come into the crowds, and are crying out: “Don’t you want oranges? Nice cakes! New boiled milk! etc., etc.” The show of cinematograph is closed at about 12 P.M., and all people flow out of the hall. Where will they go hence? Of course most of them go to their home, but a part of them young fellows among others runs to the Dark Streets of the park, or Yoshiwara, the licensed prostitution quarter near the park.

The Nightside of Japan is available from the Internet Archive in the usual range of formats (PDF, DjVu, TXT), and contains a few more references to cinematographs. More such gems as I find them.

Papers Past

Papers Past

Papers Past, http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Yet another digitised newspaper collection, but this is one of the best I’ve yet come across. It is Papers Past, the National Library of New Zealand’s website which boasts one million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals, covering the years 1840 to 1915, all of it freely available.

The site is a model of clarity and usefulness. It features forty-four newspapers (twenty-three of them word-searchable so far) from all regions of New Zealand, from The Daily Southern Cross to the Wanganui Herald. There is a simple search option and and advanced option, which allows filtering by date, paper and content type (articles, advertisement or illustration captions). And there are plenty of relevant results for the early film researcher. The word ‘kinetoscope’ gets 312 hits; ‘kinemacolor’ gets 168; ‘bioscope’ scores 1,133. Nor is all the content restricted to New Zealand news, as many of the results are news reports from around the world (particularly UK and USA).

There are many useful but unobstrusive extra features, such as the option to have preview images; to sort results by best match, date, title (article or newspaper) or content type; a search history facility; and a welcome use of ‘breadcrumbs’ (a line of links below the top menu to show you where you are on the website). Just about the only thing to criticise is some amusing slips with the OCR (optical character recognition), so that Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion gets translated as The House in Motion. And, yes, it lets you see the underlying OCRed text as well as the image of the scanned document.

Plus the whole site is available in English or Māori.

A first-rate resource.

19th Century British Library Newspapers

Graphic

http://www.bl.uk

You will have to be a member of a UK university of college of further education, or else a visitor to the British Library (St Pancras or Colindale), but if you are one of those lucky souls you will be able to make use of 19th Century British Library Newspapers, the latest digitised newspaper resource. This is a collection of 2,000,000 pages from forty-eight newspapers and journals which ran during the period 1800-1900. For copyright and trademark reasons, the project (funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, which has paid out millions for a number of mass digitisation projects designed to benefit UK HE/FE) had a cut off date of 1900.

Of the forty-eight titles that were selected (none could be titles still running today, such as The Times or Guardian), these cover the 1890s period when motion pictures first came on the scene:

Aberdeen Journal (Coverage: Jan 06, 1800 – Jun 30, 1900)
Baner Cymru (Coverage: Mar 04, 1857 – Dec 29, 1900)
Belfast News-Letter (Coverage: Jan 01, 1828 – Dec 31, 1900)
Birmingham Daily Post (Coverage: Dec 04, 1857 – Sep 29, 1900)
Bristol Mercury (Coverage: Jan 04, 1819 – Jun 25, 1900)
Daily News (Coverage: Jan 21, 1846 – Dec 31, 1900)
Derby Mercury (Coverage: Jan 02, 1800 – Dec 26, 1900)
Era (Coverage: Sep 30, 1838 – Dec 29, 1900)
Freeman’s Journal (Coverage: Jan 01, 1820 – Sep 29, 1900)
Genedl (Coverage: Feb 08, 1877 – Dec 25, 1900)
Glasgow Herald (Coverage: Feb 04, 1820 – Dec 31, 1900)
Goleuad (Coverage: Oct 30, 1869 – Dec 26, 1900)
Graphic (Coverage: Jan 01, 1870 – Dec 29, 1900)
Hampshire/Portsmouth Telegraph (Coverage: Jan 06, 1800 – Dec 29, 1900)
Illustrated Police News (Coverage: Jan 05, 1867 – Dec 29, 1900)
Ipswich Journal (Coverage: Jan 04, 1800 – Dec 29, 1900)
Jackson’s Oxford Journal (Coverage: Apr 03, 1762 – Dec 29, 1900)
Leeds Mercury (Coverage: Jan 03, 1807 – Dec 31, 1900)
Liverpool Mercury (Coverage: Jul 05, 1811 – Dec 31, 1900)
Lloyd’s Illustrated Newspaper (Coverage: Nov 27, 1842 – Dec 30, 1900)
North Wales Chronicle (Coverage: Oct 04, 1827 – Dec 29, 1900)
Northern Echo (Coverage: Jan 01, 1870 – Dec 31, 1900)
Pall Mall Gazette (Coverage: Feb 07, 1865 – Dec 31, 1900)
Preston Chronicle (Coverage: Jan 01, 1831 – Dec 02, 1894)
Reynolds’s Newspaper (Coverage: May 05, 1850 – Dec 30, 1900)
Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post (Coverage: Jan 02, 1800 – Dec 29, 1900)
Western Mail (Coverage: May 01, 1869 – Dec 31, 1900)

This is a sensational selection, which should certainly lead researchers beyond the obvious and familiar to some of the other major newspapers of the day (The Daily News, The Graphic) as well as neglected local newspapers. Digitisation is not just about making things easy, but about opening up new avenues of enquiry, enriching the learning experience. Particularly exciting for film researchers is the digitisation of The Era, the theatrical trade journal, which is a marvellous source of information on the early film business in Britain. Music halls and theatres were the usual exhibition outlets for the first films, and The Era is rich is advertisements, reviews, and articles on the new phenomenon.

I tested out the Bioscope’s favourite test keyword, Kinetoscope, and got 431 hits. As an example of the riches on offer, here’s a review of the very first film exhibition in Britain, the Kinetoscope show at 70 Oxford Street, London. A press showing was held on 17 October 1894, and this report appeared the day after in The Daily News:

THE KINETOSCOPE

This is the ugly name of a beautiful thing. It is a sort of improved zoetrope. Gazing through a peep-slot in a wooden case the spectator beholds a barber shop, wherein a customer seats himself, is lathered and duly shaved. It is a “living picture” of a new order. To take another example – a skirt-dancer is seen amid her floating drapery, and she bends her knees, travels on her toes, and indulges in a giddy spin. It is just as one sees her on the stage. Again, two pugnacious cocks try conclusions, and as the encounter waxes warm their feathers fly; other peep-slots reveal a blacksmith exercising the muscles of his brawny arm in the fashioning of a shoe; a female acrobat exhibiting some curious contortions; and a disreputable fight in the bar-room of a public-house. The question naturally arises, How is it all done? A general idea of the invention can be conveyed in a few words. Mr. Edison has contrived a camera that will take photographs at the rate of forty-three a second, thereby recording, at imperceptible intervals, the successive phases of movement. If these may be described as snap-shots they are the snap-shots of a photographic Maxim gun. The views are taken on an endless film, and set in such rapid motion that the pictures pass through the field of vision at the rate of two hundred and eighty a minute. Mr. F.Z. Maguire is Mr. Edison’s European representative, and he permitted a private view of the invention last night, at 70 Oxford-street, W., the specimen shown being those indicated above. Mr. Maguire did not say whether the mechanism is susceptible of being reversed. It is conceivable that people would be amused to see the accomplished act revoked, and the clean-shaven man become the man in need of a shave. Mr. Edison is seeking to combine the principles of the phonograph and kinetoscope, so that one may watch the gestures of the orator while listening to the words that have escaped his lips.

Quite a first review. F.Z. Maguire is Franck Zeveley Maguire, one half of Maguire and Baucus, the Edison agents whose British business went on to become the Warwick Trading Company. The Edison films shown include Blacksmith’s Shop, Cock Fight, The Bar Room and Barber Shop. The dancer could be Annabelle or Carmencita, while the contortionist is presumably Ena Bertoldi, although film of her is not usually mentioned among those featured at this first British film show.

So, a wonderful resource, and probably just a little bit annoying to anyone not in UK higher and further education or without easy access to the British Library. There are rumours however of Gale (the company behind the Times Digital Archive) eventually making the resource available to anyone, via subscription.

Motion Pictures 1894-1912

The latest edition to the Bioscope Library is Motion Pictures 1894-1912. This is the Library of Congress catalogue of copyrighted works identified as motion pictures by Howard Lamarr Walls. The catalogue was published in 1953, two years after Motion Pictures 1912-1939 (already entered in the Bioscope Library). The volume was not considered to be a part of the Library of Congress’ Catalog of Copyright Entries, Cumulative Series, although it complemented it, because before 1913 films were not copyrighted in the USA as motion pictures but instead as photographs. Hence Walls had to determine which of the copyright records for photographs 1894-1912 were actually motion pictures, which was ultimately a question of individual knowledge rather than official designation. He found around 6,000 titles. Walls became Curator of the Motion Picture Collection at the Library of Congress, and then at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and his pioneering research was of inestimable value in establishing solid information on the early motion picture in America as a subject of study.

The earliest title is Edison Kinetoscopic Record of A Sneeze, January 7, 1894, which was copyrighted on 9 January 1894. This film, taken by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, shows Edison worker Fred Ott sneezing. It was a promotional work rather than a commercial release, being used as illustration in a Harper’s Weekly article. It can be found on the Library of Congress’ excellent American Memory site, from where it has been reproduced for this YouTube clip:

The catalogue is available to download from the Internet Archive, in DjVu (4.9MB), PDF (12MB), b/w PDF (5.8MB) and TXT (621KB) formats).

Harper’s Magazine

Harper's Magazine

Another day, another digitised historical journal. This time it is the American general interest monthly Harper’s Magazine, which has been going since 1850.

It has puts its archive, 1850-2007 online, arranged in a singularly helpful manner by rows of years, then months within each year. Articles come up with thumbnails images, title, author, hyperlinked keywords (very useful), and some lines of text marked by whatever keyword you may have used. I spotted numerous film references for the pre-1930 period, including eye-catching articles by Arnold Bennett, Homer Croy, George Bernard Shaw and editor William Dean Howells, plus literary references to the medium in short stories by figures such as Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad and Henry James.

It is particularly elegantly expressed, but it does come at a modest price – $16.97, for a year’s subscription of the journal, which also entitles you to a year’s access to the archive site.

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