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1898–1899 Movies and Entrepreneurs PATRICK LOUGHNEY 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 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 had appeared in the marketplace up to that time. One device on that list, “Getthemoneygraph,” included as a satiric commentary, humorously yet accurately captured the chaotic entrepreneurial spirit of the movie world of the period. Jenkins was in a position to know, for he was one of the rapidly growing number of inventors, producers, showmen, and investors in an array of business enterprises then emerging as the aggregation of a new and substantial area of industrial activity by the close of 1899. The progress of the motion picture business during the last two years of the nineteenth century occurred during a time of growing prosperity in North America. The principal nations—Canada, Mexico, and the United States—were all in the midst of a strong recovery period of economic expansion, following the depression years of the early 1890s. Under the leadership of José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz (1876–1911), Mexico was reaching the height of a sustained period of “order and progress” unprecedented in the country’s history. Canada was likewise beginning to record nationwide increases in investments and exports at historic levels. And the United States, which had been the engine of largely unregulated economic growth for the entire continent since the 1860s, entered a new phase of aggressive international expansion in 1898 that would dramatically upset the centuriesold order of European world dominance in military, economic, and social affairs. 66 The emergence of the United States as a world military power in the final years of the nineteenth century was only one aspect in a complex and often paradoxical array of achievements in the arts, literature, and culture that defined America as truly distinct from any nation in history. Examples appeared in every field of endeavor. In architecture, construction of Louis Sullivan’s Schlesinger & Mayer department store in Chicago (1898–1899) revolutionized the design of modern-era office buildings. In contrast to the unbridled American pursuit and accumulation of wealth of the time, Frank Norris’s McTeague (1899) analyzed the corrosive influence of money on personal relationships, while political economist Thorsten Veblen introduced the concept of “conspicuous consumption” in his examination of newly rich entrepreneurs, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). At a time when New York’s “tin pan alley” mass-produced songs with countless rhyme variations on “June, moon, spoon, swoon, and croon,” Scott Joplin published “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899), establishing ragtime and an African American composer as major influences on the course of popular music. Philosopher and educator John Dewey published The School and Society (1899), summarizing his research into pedagogical method, which had a lasting influence on national educational reform. And, with the founding of the American AntiImperialist League (1898), leading artists, poets, writers, dramatists, politicians , and social critics of the day publicly demonstrated their strong disagreement with the nation’s decision to initiate war with Spain. Members of the League included writer Mark Twain, politician George S. Boutwell, poet Edgar Lee Masters, humorist Finley Peter Dunne, philosopher John Dewey, former president Grover Cleveland, writer William Dean Howells, psychologist-philosopher William James, social reformer Jane Addams, journalist Ambrose Bierce, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, labor leader Samuel Gompers, progressive reformers Moorfield Storey and Josephine Shaw Lowell, influential editor-journalist Oswald Garrison Villard , and industrialist Charles Francis Adams Jr. In spite of the League’s strenuous efforts, Cuba, Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico were annexed to the United States during 1898–1899. ■■■■■■■■■■ The Motion Picture Patent and Copyright War In the midst of this general turmoil of creative expression, social reform, economic growth, and international ambition, the disjointed elements of the motion picture business in North America collectively faced the challenge of advancing beyond the limiting factors of the “novelty” era, which had ended in 1897 (Musser, Emergence 109ff).1 Motion pictures as a 1898–1899 — MOVIES...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813546445
Related ISBN
9780813544427
MARC Record
OCLC
318240465
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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