information added March 27, 2009 


WID’S 1921 YEAR BOOK, page 69-75


Edward Muybridge, of California, was the first cinematographer to project moving pictures, his own, on a screen from revolving glass plates.  That was in 1877.  The world’s first moving pictures for screen exhibition were made in California by Mr. Muybridge in 1872.

After Muybridge showed the way, C. Francis Jenkins, of Washington D. C., on June 6, 1894, gave the world’s first projection of moving pictures from celluloid film on the wall of a jewelry store in Richmond, Indiana.

On March 5, 1896, Thomas A. Edison agreed to manufacture the Jenkins machine with improvements made by Thomas Armat under the name of the Edison Vitascope.

Muybridge, of California, invented the projection machine, Jenkins perfected it, and Thomas Edison first manufactured it in large numbers with added improvements of his own.

Not only is California the center of the world’s picture industry, the state where two-thirds of the world’s pictures are made, but it was in California that the first moving pictures, made in California, were thrown upon a screen by a projection machine.

The first moving pictures to be thrown upon a screen were made in the summer of 1877, on the Sacramento race track, in the presence of Leland Stanford by Edward Muybridge, an Englishman, living in California, and employed by the United States Government Geodetic Survey Service.

The pictures, which showed a white horse running against a specially constructed black fence as a background, were made by a battery of 24 cameras, placed in a row, the shutters of which were operated by threads placed across the track at intervals and snapped by the horse as it galloped.

The projection machine, which threw these moving pictures on a screen, was also invented by Edward Muybridge.  The world’s first projection of moving pictures on a screen also took place in California, in a studio, the world’s first moving picture studio, built by Governor Leland Stanford for Mr. Muybridge.

This studio stood until a few years ago, on the site of Governor Stanford’s racecourse at Palo Alto, California, where now stands Leland Stanford University.

Previous to Edward Muybridge’s invention of the “Zoopraxiscope,” which threw pictures on a screen by means of an oxy-acetylene light set up with a condensing lens, there were no projection machines.  Muybridge’s projection machine consisted of a large glass disk with reproductions of photographs set along its margin.  Each photograph showed a slight progression in movement.

Moving photographic prints had been shown, to one person at a time, in a stereoscope or “peep-hole machine” in 1860 by Dr. Sellers of Philadelphia, but it was Muybridge who first showed moving pictures to an audience of more than one person.

Muybridge’s first audience consisted of more than a hundred wealthy California racing men, who were invited to the world’s moving picture premiere by Governor Leland Stanford.

Before he showed his first moving pictures to the world’s first moving picture audience, Muybridge obviated the blurring of his pictures when they were rapidly revolved before the lens by placing before the pictures another metal disc.

When the two discs were revolved in opposite directions, apertures in the metal disc coinciding with the glass disc’s pictures completely gave the idea of motion by reason of the persistence of vision.

Muybridge of California was the inventor of the modern projection machine.  It remained for others to substitute a strip of film for the revolving glass disc and to perfect Muybridge’s primitive shutter.

Several years later, “the grandfather of moving pictures,” on February 27, 1886, took his now perfected Zoopraxiscope to Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph and asked him if the Zoopraxiscope and the phonograph could not be synchronized so as to give the world its first “talking pictures.”

Even in 1893, at the World’s Fair in Chicago, Muybridge carried off the honors.  Muybridge was able to project his pictures on a screen in Zoopraxical Hall.  The best others could do was an improved “Peep-Hole Machine” which showed moving pictures on celluloid film, but which, nevertheless, could be seen by only one person at a time.

It cannot be contested that Muybridge of California was the first maker of moving pictures to throw them upon a screen.  Until Muybridge came only one person at a time could view the stereoscopic peep shows.  Muybridge gave the world’s first screen exhibition to a number of persons.

Muybridge’s moving pictures and projection machine were awarded honors in France in 1881 when they were shown to a large group of foreign scientists in the laboratory of Dr. E. J. Marey.

Upon Muybridge’s return to America he was given a studio 120 feet in length by the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Muybridge also took the first instantaneous photographs in history.  Many of them were made, to the astonishment of the world’s photographers at that time, at an exposure of one six-thousandths part of a second.  Even today there are few shutters which can equal the speed of the Muybridge shutter of 1882.

Here are some of the earliest moving pictures made by Muybridge in California:

          “Leland Stanford Athletes in Action.”

          “The Movements of the Raccoon.”

          “The Movements of the Baboon.”

          “The Ostrich Farms of California.”

          “The Movements of the Sloth.”

          “How a Hog’s Back Wrinkles.”

          “The Beating of a Dog’s Heart.”

In making “The Beating of a Dog’s Heart,” Mr. Muybridge’s camera was placed close to the chest of the animal, which had been anestheticized and cut open by Dr. Edward Reichert.  Muybridge was the first cinematographer to throw scientific pictures on a screen.

To the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 Muybridge brought 20,000 original photographs on revolving glass plates and before tens of thousands of people during that summer projected his moving pictures of animal movements.

Before special audiences of scientific men he showed views of persons afflicted with locomotor ataxia, lateral sclerosis and kindred diseases.

Soon afterward Muybridge of California, then an octogenarian, died.  He gave up more than twenty years of his life to advancing the science of moving pictures.

He was the first man to make instantaneous photographs, the first to project moving pictures on a screen so that the idea of continuity of motion might be conveyed to the observer.  True, the motion was crude, jerky and spasmodic – but so were moving pictures even as late as 1906.

Muybridge began his work to prove to Governor Stanford that a racing horse going at a certain rate of speed was at successive points in his stride clear of support from the ground, but he finished by giving the world its first moving pictures on a screen.




Thomas S. Tally, the present owner of Tally’s Broadway Theater, Los Angeles, was the first Los Angeles exhibitor.  Early in April, 1897, eleven years before Col. Selig established the first producing studio in Los Angeles, and a few years after the death of Mr. Muybridge, Mr. Tally exhibited the first moving picture seen on the Pacific Coast.

The picture was a 300-foot release, “The Black Diamond Express.”  Mr. Tally exhibited it himself with an Edison Vitastope on a screen in the rear of his phonograph parlor which was then located at 311 South Spring Street.

The projection was made through a tunnel of wood and black canvas which occupied the center of Mr. Tally’s phonograph shop, which Mr. Tally did not wish to darken during the “screening” for fear that prospective talking machine purchasers might be frightened away.  The picture was viewed from the rear of the shop, which had been made over into an auditorium with chairs for 300 people.






The first moving picture scenes for a photo-drama to be filmed in California were made by Col. William N. Selig, of Chicago, who sent a company from the Windy City to Los Angeles early in 1908 to film the water scenes of “The Count of Monte Cristo.”  The interiors of this picture were made in Chicago.

The first moving picture to be filmed in its entirety in California was “In the Sultan’s Power,” and this picture, too, was made by Col. Selig.  Hobart Bosworth played the leading role and Stella Adams, Frank Montgomery and Tom Santschi took important parts; Frank Boggs directed.

Director Boggs, who some months later was killed by a Japanese religious fanatic, was accompanied west by James L. McGee, who is still with the Selig Company; by James Crosby, manager of the company; Harry Todd, for many subsequent years with Essanay; Gene Ward and Mrs. Boggs, who was known professionally as May Hosmer.

“In the Sultan’s Power” was made in the first Los Angeles studio, an old mansion at Eighth and Olive Streets.  In the “back yard” of the old house interior sets were put up.  No artificial light was employed, all interiors being filmed with sunlight.




The New York Motion Picture Corp. was the next company to send a unit to the coast.  This company reached Los Angeles the day after Thanksgiving, 1909.

The company was under the direction of Charles K. French.  Fred Balshofer was Mr. French’s cameraman.  The company had produced eighteen single reel Bison brand pictures in New York before coming west and had been organized by Charles O. Baumann, Adam Kessel and Mr. French in New York in April, 1909.

The original Los Angeles Bison Company consisted of Art Acord, James Youngdeer, “Princess” Red Wing, Barney Sherry, Charles Avery, Jule Darrell, Evelyn Graham, Bill Gibbons, Fred Balshofer, Buster Edmonds, Phyllis Daniels, Marion Sayres, Madeline West, William Daniels, Margaret Favor, Edna Maison, Jess McGraw, George Gebhardt, Jack Conway, Howard Davies, Charles Inslee, E. H. Allen, Milt Brown, Frank Montgomery and Messrs. Smyth, Edmonds, Hartigan and Stanley.

The first Bison pictures were made in Edendale on the site of the Keystone studio, a block away from the Edendale studio of the Selig company.  The studio consisted only of a horse corral and a stage.  The Bison company made only western pictures.

For the same ground that the Sennett organization occupies today Mr. French paid $40 a month rent.  His stage occupied a space 18x18 feet.  Some of the early productions were made for as low as $112 a picture.  Mr. French, who was general manager, director, secretary and treasurer of the organization, was limited to $300 on a picture, and in no case was this sum exceeded.

The actors and actresses in stock, such as Sherry, Youngdeer and a few others, received $35 a week.  Extras got $5 a day.  Cowboys were paid $3 a day.

Under normal conditions the old Bison company turned out a one-reel picture in two days and sometimes finished a picture between sun-up and sun-down.  From November, 1909 to July 17, 1910, the Bison company, under Mr. French’s direction, completed 185 pictures, or approximately one picture every day and a half.





The third company to cone to Los Angeles was the Biograph unit, which arrived in January, 1910, and remained thirteen weeks.  Biograph erected a studio at Pico and Georgia Streets.  Offices, developing and printing quarters were at Washington Street and Grand Avenue when the company first arrived.

The first picture made was “Ramona,” which because of the California locale of the story required a visit to the Pacific Southland.  “Ramona” was the most expensive picture put out by any manufacturer up to that time.

The original Los Angeles Biograph company consisted of General Manager Hammer, D. W. Griffith, Mack Sennett, Arthur Johnson, Owen Moore, Mary Pickford, Florence Lawrence, Marjory Favor and Lee Dougherty.  D. W. Griffith was the director.





Next to arrive in California was the Essanay company of ten players which left Chicago on August 15, 1910, under the leadership of Gilbert M. Anderson.  The company stopped over at Golden, Colorado, sixteen miles from Denver, but late in October pulled up stakes and went to Los Gatos, California

 At Los Gatos they encountered five weeks of steady rain.  Not a foot of film was exposed.  When the forty-day flood finished the Essanay people got to work, and spent a busy nine weeks at Los Gatos making up for lost time.

 The Essanay company finally quit Los Gatos for their real “farthest west” at Redlands, Santa Monica, on the Pacific Ocean.  Santa Monica’s first picture was Essanay’s “Tag Day.”  In this picture Augustus Carney, Arthur Macklin, Harry Todd, Fred Church, G. M. Anderson, and William Russell (since deceased) played the leading roles.

 Thereafter the Essanay company moved to San Rafael, to Lakeside, near San Diego, to Hollywood and again to Niles.





On December 11, 1910, Kenean Buell brought a Kalem company to Los Angeles which previously had been working in Florida.  A studio was opened in Verdugo Canyon, Glendale.

 In 1911, P. C. Hartigan opened a Kalem studio at Santa Monica.  This was afterward abandoned.  In September, 1913, Caryle Blackwell opened the Kalem studio in Fleming Street, Hollywood.




David Horsley’s Nestor Company, it is generally agreed, was the first to open a studio in Hollywood.  Mr. Horsley, in October, 1911, rented buildings for studio purposes at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.

Later Mr. Horsley brought to Hollywood the Thomas Ricketts company, producing dramas; the Milton Fahrney company, producing westerns; and the Al E. Christie company, producing comedies.  On May 20, 1912, the Nestor company was merged with Universal,



Right on the heels of the Nestor company came the Vitagraph unit.  The Vitagraph players left Brooklyn October 23, 1911.  A stop-over of two weeks was made at Colorado Springs and at the Grand Canyon.  Los Angeles was reached on November 23, 1911.

The Vitagraph company consisted of Rollin S. Sturgeon, director; Charles Bennett, Anne Schaefer, Tom Fortune, Robert J. Thornby, Helen Case, Tom Powers, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Burns, Robert Burns, Walter Stradling, cameraman; and Alfred Ziegler, assistant cameraman.

Mr. and Mrs. William T. Rock, who had been on the coast for some time, welcomed the Vitagraph players and brought them to the studio which they had engaged on Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica.




Universal may be said to have established itself on the coast when it took over the Nestor studio on May 20, 1912.  On July 12, the Universal purchased the property across the street from the Nestor acreage.  This was later the home of the L-Ko comedy company.

In August, 1912, William H. Swanson, then treasurer of Universal, leased 1,299 acres, now known as “the back ranch” at the end of San Fernando Valley, adjoining Griffith Park.  In August, 1914, Universal gave up this property and moved to the present site of Universal City.

Preparations for this move began in May, 1913, and on March 15, 1915, Universal City was formally opened.  Early in 1915 the Universal again bought back the “back ranch” which it still holds.




In September, 1912, Mack Sennett and a small company, including Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling, which had been organized on July 4, 1912, came to Los Angeles.  The Sennett company took over the studio which had been used by the original Bison company.

Famous Players began work in Los Angeles in 1912, when Edwin S. Porter brought a company to the coast to produce “Tess of the Storm Country,” in which Mary Pickford was starred.  The Lasky company, later merged with Famous Players, started work in Los Angeles early in 1914.  At about the same time David W. Griffith brought Reliance-Majestic company west.

James Youngdeer made pictures for Pathe in 1912; Thanhouser opened a plant late in the same year; Lubin sent a company west under Capt. Wilbert Melville in 1913, and the Balboa and Albuquerque companies also commenced operations about the same time.  In the latter part of 1913 Bosworth, Inc., commenced making pictures.

When the Great War broke out the pioneer days had passed.  The studios were well established.  System had replaced haphazard methods of production.  The days of crude sets and cruder acting were gone.  Photography and direction had improved marvelously.  The Los Angeles studios were “all set” to win the world’s markets.

At the present day there are 49 studios in and around Los Angeles, and about 175 producing units are at work.  Los Angeles “houses” about 20,000 picture people.  In 1920, the studio payrolls amounted to about $40,000,000.  About $20,000,000 was spent, most of it in Los Angeles, for studio equipment and supplies.  The total investment in studios runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.



Recent Photos

Newest Members

Featured Products