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Inventing Motion Pictures

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Inventing Motion Pictures
June 2002

When you think of movies, you think of Hollywood. But before Hollywood, New Jersey was the movie capital of the world.

New Jersey became the movie industry's home because motion pictures were invented here. William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, a worker at Thomas Edison's West Orange laboratory, invented the first movie viewer and movie camera. The camera was called a kinetograph, and the peephole viewer was called a kinetoscope. The names come from the Greek word kineto, which means movement.

Work on the camera and viewer began in 1888. By October 1892, Dickson and Edison had finished versions of the products. They used flexible 35-mm film from the Eastman Company (now Kodak) to take the pictures.

The first movie devices looked like kitchen cabinets. The kinetoscope was originally four-feet tall. A peephole on top let the person see the image. Inside, 50 feet of film moved through a number of spools. A lamp beneath the film allowed the pictures to be seen. As the pictures rapidly moved over the lamp, the still pictures appeared to be moving. For more details on the Edison laboratory's work on inventing the movie camera and viewer, check out the Library of Congress' Web site on Edison Motion Pictures.   drawing of Thomas Edison

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