Making of America


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.