Sometimes, the best things in life happen by accident. In the case of Thomas Edison, the legendary inventor created an experimental film meant to test his early motion picture exhibition device, the Kinetoscope. In doing so, Edison unwittingly created the first movie created in the U.S.
The Kinetoscope was made so that viewers could watch a movie through a peephole at the top of the device, while a filmstrip was fed at a rapid speed over a light source. Fellow inventor William K.L. Dickson and 19th-century director-cinematographer William Heise assisted Edison with the movie Monkeyshines, No. 1 (not to be confused with the 1988 George A. Romero horror film, eek!), which features one of Edison's employees dancing about. The film test was not created for commercial display, but historians eventually put two and two together and realized its importance.
This early version of the Kinetoscope transformed after Edison’s trip to Europe and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. There, he met with scientists and international inventors working on similar cinematic machines, which helped inform the refinement of his own. The Kitetoscope was crucial in the evolution of American cinema, and we have this unassuming clip to thank for its success (at least in part).
Open Culture recently posted the film, which also includes the second Kinetoscope test — Monkeyshines, No. 2.
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