Filmmaking and cine films had their beginnings in the late 19th century, when technology advancements provided the chance to completely change how events are recorded. From immortalising precious memories to recording tragic moments, films like the Zapruder Film are invaluable pieces of history.
Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers have often been credited for pioneering the technology for the moving image. Louis Le Prince, however, has been credited with the oldest surviving film, recorded in 1888.
Roundhay Garden Scene, Louis Le Prince (1888)
The oldest surviving film is only 2.11 seconds long. It was filmed at 12 frames per second at Oakwood Grange by French inventor Louis Le Prince. He is attributed the first ever film of moving pictures on Eastman’s paper film, using a single lens camera, which has brought him the honour of being considered “Father of Cinematography” since 1930.
Louis Le Prince disappeared in 1890 and his body was never found. Shortly after his disappearance, Thomas Edison is said to have tried to take credit for the invention but Le Prince’s family, widow and son, ensured he was not forgotten for his inventions. Due to his disappearance, Le Prince was never able to present his film at the public exhibition at Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan, which has led to him often being overlooked in the history of cinema.
His first film, however, has survived and can be seen to this day. Due to how short the film is, it is often played on a loop.
Thomas Edison is often heralded as the inventor of motion picture films. Many firsts of film can be attributed to him, including establishing the first movie studio in 1893 (called the Black Maria). While remembering Louis Le Prince’s contributions to film, you can enjoy watching some of films’ firsts that Thomas Edison and his employees recorded at Black Maria.
Carmencita, The First Woman on Film (1894)
Directed and produced by Scottish inventor William K. L. Dickson, under Thomas Edison’s employ, Carmencita is a short, black and white film featuring a dancer of the same name. It showcases a routine Carmencita had been performing at Kosher and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City. She is thought to be the first woman on film within the United States.
Sioux Ghost Dance, The First Native American Motion Picture (1894)
A group of Native American Sioux dancers from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West exhibition is the first known film of Native Americans. In the film, they demonstrate a dance called “ghost dance”. The dance was part of a new religious movement incorporated into many Native American belief systems.
Annabelle Serpentine Dance, The First Hand-Tinted Movie (1895)
Featuring Annabelle Moore, this short, silent film was produced and distributed by the Edison Manufacturing Company. Directed by William K. L. Dickson and William Heise, it showcases a hand-tinted Annabelle performing a dance in a flowing skirt.
The Kiss, The First Kiss for Motion Picture (1896)
One of the first films ever to be shown commercially to the public. Around 18 seconds long, it depicts a re-enactment of a kiss between May Irwin and Joh Rice from the stage musical, The Widow Jones. Containing the first kiss ever recorded on film, it caused great controversy for its “shocking” and “obscene” content.