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October 6, 1889: Roll ’em

How rare it is in history for a scientific genius to also possess considerable business acumen and the ability to direct a large body of men working under him.  Thomas Edison possessed all of those gifts.  With one of the sharper minds granted to a man, he had the inspiration to invent hundreds of devices.  He directed eventually a large work force of employees, some of whom had intellects almost as sharp as his.  Finally he could take his inventions and develop markets for them.

Edison thought of “moving pictures” as doing for the eye what his phonograph did for the ear.  In February of 1888 Edison met with chrono-photographer  Eadweard Muybridge who used what he called a  zoopraxiscope to rapidly project painted images on a screen to give the illusion of music.  They announced they would combine this technology with Edison’s phonograph.  From the outset Edison envisioned “talkies”.  Most of the actual work in producing the first movies was done by Edison’s employee W. K. L. Dickson, who had served as Edison’s official photographer.

Edison devised the idea of a kinetoscope, but it was Dickson who brought it to reality, producing “moving” images by running strips of film across a light source.  Dickson invented the first practical celluloid film to serve as the medium upon which the photographs would be placed.  The first films were displayed as “peep shows” in penny arcades, the movies often focusing on boxing matches and other athletic contests.

Dickson went on to produce the first film for a pope, and had his camera blessed by Leo XIII. 

Edison Studios would make over 1200 films between 1894 and 1918.  Love movies or hate them, Edison started the whole thing.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

6 Comments

  1. The way Thomas Edison cheated Nikola Tesla out of the money he promised to pay him for lighting the Chicago World’s Fair, and the manner in which Thomas Edison fought George Westinghouse in the matter of DC versus AC electricity has always been an indiicator of the kind of man Thomas Edison really was at heart. And it is that attitude of arrogance and supremacy which he instilled within hs company General Electric, an attitude which remains to this day with its CEO and President Jeff Immelt.

  2. Edison set up GE with J.P. Morgan’s money. Morgan forced Edison out of GE when Westinghouse proved AC was superior. According to the History TV show, Morgan extorted AC from Westinghouse.
    Edison was a brilliant man and GE was a great company. However, Westinghouse was a smart man in his own right and Westinghouse Electric, long based in Pittsburgh, was a fierce competitor of GE.

  3. Today the competition between Westinghouse and GE exists in only one area; in all other areas GE is dominate and Westinghouse almost non-existento.
    .
    Westinghouse AP1000 PWR
    http://www.westinghousenuclear.com/New-Plants/AP1000-PWR
    .
    GE ESBWR
    https://nuclear.gepower.com/build-a-plant/products/nuclear-power-plants-overview/esbwr.html
    .
    Of the two, I think ESBWR is superior due to the superiority of its passive safety systems, and I write that as someone who very much dislikes GE.
    .
    On a side note, GE also markets ABWR, and when ABWRs were being built in Japan, GE sold the rights for ABWR to Toshiba. Toshiba then bought Westinghouse Nuclear, and the South Texas Project was going to build Toshiba- Westinghouse supplied ABWRs until the combination of Obama’s appointment of anti-nuclear people to the NRC and the drop in natural gas prices forced South Texas to delay the new build indefinitely. The point, however, in all this is that the dead hands of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse continue to battle. By the way, just as Westinghouse’s AC electricity dominated over Edison’s DC, so today > 60% of all reactors are based on the Westinghouse PWR design and < 30% on the GE BWR design.

  4. Westinghouse shed its manufacturing businesses two decades ago, when a Michael Jordan was appointed CEO. Westinghouse bought CBS and then took the CBS name. There isn’t much left here today of Westinghouse Electric except nuclear power. WE is a subsidiary of another company now, I think Toshiba, but I’m not sure.
    Westinghouse was a defense contractor, appliance manufacturer, air brake manufacturer, broadcaster (Group W) and many other things, now gone from Southwestern Pennsylvania.

  5. I believe you are correct, Penguins Fan. Meanwhile GE and Siemens battle it out world wide for domination. Ironically I have worked for both at one time or another, but never for Westinghouse even though I was employed at a Westinghouse PWR for 18 years.

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