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American Cinema 1890-1909

Themes and Variations

Edited by Andre Gaudreault

Publication Year: 2009

The essays in American Cinema 1890-1909 explore 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."

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. ix-xi

Timeline: 1890–1909

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pp. xiii-xvii

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Introduction: American Cinema Emerges (1890–1909)

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pp. 1-21

This book deals with a very special topic: the beginnings. The beginnings of cinema, some would say. The beginnings of moving 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 of animated views or animated pictures. ...

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1890-1895: Movies and the Kinetoscope

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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. ...

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1896-1897: Movies and the Beginnings of Cinema

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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. ...

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1898-1899: Movies and Entrepreneurs

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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 published Animated Pictures, a historical survey of the technological devel-...

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1900-1901: Movies, New Imperialism, and the New Century

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pp. 91-111

The years 1900–1901 were a time of flux in the new “moving picture” industry (see Musser Emergence). 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 legit-...

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1902-1903: Movies, Stories, and Attractions

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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 them-...

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1904:1905: Movies and Chasing the Missing Link(s)

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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.” ...

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1906: Movies and Spectacle

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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. ...

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1907: Movies and the Expansion of the Audience

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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. ...

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1908: Movies and Other Media

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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. ...

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1909: Movies and Progress

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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 air-plane 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...

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Sources For Films

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pp. 247-248

Many films from this decade are difficult to find. Some titles are only available in film archives. Some may be acquired for personal use, but only from small companies that distribute “collector’s copies” on VHS or DVD-R. Typically mastered from video copies of battered and “dupey” 8 mm or 16 mm prints, these copies are often well below normal commercial standards. ...

Works Cited and Consulted

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pp. 249-253


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pp. 255-256


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pp. 257-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546445
E-ISBN-10: 0813546443
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544427
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544424

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 33 photographs
Publication Year: 2009