The Man Who Made Movies

The Man Who Made Movies

W.K.L. Dickson
Paul Spehr
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/17/2008
Format: Hardback 60 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-861-96695-0
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W.K.L. Dickson was Thomas Edison's assistant in charge of the experimentation that led to the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph—the first commercially successful moving image machines. In 1891–1892, he established what we know today as the 35mm format. Dickson also designed the Black Maria film studio and facilities to develop and print film, and supervised production of more than 100 films for Edison. After leaving Edison, he became a founding member of the American Mutoscope Company, which later became the American Mutoscope & Biograph, then Biograph. In 1897, he went to England to set up the European branch of the company. Over the course of his career, Dickson made between 500 and 700 films, which are studied today by scholars of the early cinema. This well-illustrated book offers a window onto early film history from the perspective of Dickson's own oeuvre.

Author Bio

Paul Spehr is former Assistant Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.


“This well-illustrated book offers a window onto early film history from the perspective of a prominent filmmaker's life and work. ”

“. . . recounts the contributions of Thomas Edison's assistant in charge of experimentation whose work led to the development of the first commercially successful moving image machines. . . . a valuable and comprehensive history.Vol. 40.3 July-Sept. 2009”

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Introducing Mr. Dickson
1. Family matters
2. Goerck Street
3. The Business of Invention; Electricity, Ore, and the PHonograph
4. Personal Matters
5. From a Ladies' Watch to a Locomotive: the New Laboratory
6. The Germ of an Idea
7. The Kineto-Phonograph: The Begninning of a Quest
8. Trials, Errors, Mergers, Shenanigans, and Speculation
9. Competition!
10. A Certain Precipitate of Knowledge: The Kinetograph, Spring 1889
11. Mr. Edison Triumphs in Europe and Dickson has a Busy Summer
12. "Good Morning, Mr. Edison": The Strip Kintograph
13. Caveat, Film, an announcement and a Conundrom: The Kineto after Paris
14. "We Had a Hell of a Good Time...": Ore Milling and Electricity, Dreams and Reality
15. the Nickel-in-the-Slot Phonograph
16. "Come Up Stairs and See the Germ Work": Problems, Success, and REvisions
17. Edison's Agent
18. "A Method of Taking and Using Photographs": Patenting the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph
19. "Unaltered to Date": Creating the Foundation fo the Modern Motion Picture
20. The Kinetoscope and Black Maria
21. Personal Affairs: Pictures, Words, Inventions
22. Wizard Edison's Wonderful Instrument: The Kinetoscope
23. A Discontented Winter
24. Between Careers: Publishing and New Opportunities
25. The Age of Movement: a New Enterprise
26. The Playful Specter of teh Night: The Biograph on Screen
27. Home Again
28. The Pope and the Mutoscopes
29. News in a Pictorial Way
30. The Road to Ladysmith
31. To Pretoria and Beyond: The Heart of the Biographer at Rest
32. The Hope to See a Bright Future: The W.K.L. Dickson Laboratory
33. A Peculiar Memory for Details
34. Forgotten by History: Evaluating Mr. Dickson