top of page

"I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear,

which is the recording ​and reproduction of things in motion ...." 

Father of Motion-Picture Cameras

**NOTE..PLEASE READ!   This is a faq of sorts.  I have heard the arguments that the invention of the motion-picture camera was a process of several folks, and I do not dispute that fact...however...the ones before Edison did not...he did...he got the patent, he was the proprietor, therefore, the invention was his...and his alone!  Case closed!!  Yes..I have heard of project21, and they are ignorant of the facts, just opinions and you know what they say about those!  

Back in the day..was there anything this man didn't invent??😋 1,093 patents!!👍  A record, that, TO THIS DAY  - noone has ever even come CLOSE to!!!  His favorite??  According to his diary, was none other than the motion-picture camera!  Just think...Who is your favorite star??  What is your favorite movie??  Before the invention of the motion picture camera...none of it existed.  Take away movies and music today and there would be alot of teens and adults alike 'shittin' bricks'!!  Where would we be without television, silver screens, or your evening newscast???  Maybe there was a reason behind his favorite invention being the motion-picture camera...maybe it is the same reason the movie industry continues to trump every other industry today.  It is the biggest money maker per year, per capita!  Raking in more money than NASA, and Microsoft....combined!!  It is also the most sought after profession in the world....

MOVIES..FILMMAKING..and it all started with a modified invention by Thomas Edison...the motion-picture camera.   He was deaf, he was a businessman, he was a family man, and he was amongst the most brilliant of men to ever walk the earth...he was Thomas Alva Edison!!  

Thomas Alva Edison was born February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, but he grew up in Port Huron, Michigan.  There is a statue in the area.. He was born into a dutch family who well knew the value of hard work and a dollar.  He didn't learn to talk straight until he was age 4 and his school days would prove to be tough ones.  Now, he would probably be diagnosed with ADD - but as a misjudge with so many kids... Young Edison was far from ADD.  The wheels in his mind were always running and he would often drift off in class.  He would challenge any adult around to explain the workings of anything around him he came into contact with.  If their answer was, 'I don't know,' he would ask them why.  At age seven, Thomas' teacher became frustrated with this boy she saw as 'problematic.'  She thought his persistent questions were a form of 'self-centeredness' and 'rudeness.


Thomas' mother , (whom Thomas doted upon and often described as, 'the making of me because she was always so true and so sure of me... And always made me feel I had someone to live for and must not disappoint.") ,' upon finding out about his frustrated teacher, immediately withdrew him from school and proceeded to homeschool young Thomas.  His mother of course thought her son's slightly unusual brood head and physical appearance were merely outward signs of his remarkable intelligence.  ( 'o-so-right' she was...but then again, mom's are never wrong...right??  Well..that's been the experience with my mother.) After all - kids nowadays, wanna be "him"..  That teacher??  Long since forgotten about!!  Anyhoo...Thomas' mom immediately began teaching Thomas reading, writing, arithmetic..and of course, the Bible.  She was afterall the daughter of a well to do Presbyterian minister.  

Soon after she started homeschooling Thomas - he started to take a keen interest in world history and English literature..he became a huge fan of Shakespeare!! 


At age 11, Thomas' parents took and showed him how to use the library.  It was at this point he really started to take an interest in learning.  He was so excited, he promptly made a vow to start with the last book on the library shelf and, work his way down to the first book on the shelf.  In his excitement, he made his plans openly public!  His parents promptly convinced him to be more selective in what he read.... By age 12, Tom had not only completed Gibbon's Rise And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Sears' History Of The World, and Burton's Anatomy Of Melancholy, he had devoured The World Dictionary of Science and a number of works on Practical Chemistry.  Eventually, he worked his way into more physics and philosophical type stuff and his parents could no longer answer.  When he began to question them about concepts dealing with Isaac Newton's great "Principia" - they were utterly stumped, (and probably a lil confused as well), however, accordingly, they scraped enough money together to hire a clever tutor to help their precocious son in trying to understand Newton's complex mathematical principles and unique style...Thomas became fascinated with telegraph.  One of his tutors in the early years just happened to be a telegrapher and inventor named Franklin Leonard Pope, who allowed young Thomas to come and work in the basement of his Elizabeth, New Jersey home.  Some of Edison's earliest inventions were related to telegraphy, including a stock ticker. His first patent was for the electric vote recorder, which was granted on June 1, 1869.  He was 22 and bursting with ideas!!  


A 19-year old Edison arrived in Louisville to work for Western Union during the late spring of 1866, and it was during part of this stay that he rented a room in the double-shotgun cottage found nestled in the city’s Butchertown neighborhood.  He lived here, (and in my sarcastic can clearly see how his fast growing book collecting might have started to to problem in this place.)  His thirst for knowledge only grew with time.  Anything that baffled him, he would get the answer through books...sometimes many, many books...putting the pieces of his quarry together like a fine puzzle.  His thirst for knowledge never ceased to be quenched.  He would be in 'think invention' overload.  Bookgeek was a major, major understatement.  Book ho.. Might be a term for better words... Sometimes going through 3 to 4 good size books in a day until he found his answer.  All the while.... Ideas for inventions were swirling in his head.  at the same time, it affected his performance at Western Union.  He feared the worst coming to him on the jobstead, so he borrowed 35 smackers from a friend, and split to New York. He was penniless..and after staying that way nearly three weeks in NY, he was about to croak of starvation.  He noticed that a office firm was panicking.  Seemed the managers stock ticker stopped working.  Thom, offered to fix the ticker, he did, the manager was impressed. WEE!!  The manager gave Thom a job with a pay of 300 smackers a month.  Thom would later recall this as the turning point realizing he had enough to support himself all along ... his quote, 'ticket to ride,' was in his head through his ideals.  He went on to improve the stock ticker .. and handed a $40,000 check.  After walking around for awhile staring at the huge check .. he properly put the check in the bank.  This would be the starting of a creative outlet, and enough for a lab that, in time would produce ... POOF ... one invention, one patent ... POOF ... another invention, another patent ... POOF another invention, and, (in the words of Thom..a fast pitched yessir) another patent.  You get what I am sayin??  You can be sure that mannny ... many, many, maannnnnyyy POOF'S would follow that.  OHHHhhh SNAP!!   

1874, after a big sale of smaller inventions, he opened the first ever lab testing center, in Newark, NJ.  In 1876, he moved himself to Menlo Park, NJ and here came the invention of the phonograph .. it was a major POOF!  No doubt Edison was... 'moving on up, to the east side.'   You too can visit his home for a tour these days.  Anyhoo .. by 1888, the phonograph made Edison a worldwide household name and garnered him the title, "wizard of Menlo Park.'  Here came the the lightbulb, (as illustrated by this puurtty picture!)...POOF, and another POOF, and yet another.  Edison was living his dream...and the dream was living Edison. 

In 1887 , Edison built this industrial research laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, (STILL up), that remained unsurpassed until the twentieth century.  This would also become the first ever motion-picture studio.  By 1888, Edison was really salivating over an idea project he had been tinkering with off and on for the past couple years previous, but never got the wheels turning on.  It was an idea that, if done proper, would revolutionize the picture revolution.  At this point in time, a still camera was still being revolutionized, but could only take static shots meaning one picture minutes at a time.  Edison's idea was to, according to his diary, 'take the basics of that that is, and create an apparatus that could take lots of pictures on a second by second basis, to get the live moving effect of the moment."   He began the tedious process of putting his idea into motion.  He would work 4 years on this process though a series of written diagrams, pieces, and the help of different assistants.  Throughout this time he worked on other experiments, but the idea of motion-pictures stayed front and center of his mind as it began to take life.  In 1892, the result was a motion-picture camera, in essence, that would take multiple pictures on a second by second basis.  His vision realized.  Huge MEGA POOF!!  It became a source of entertainment for him, entertainment he hadn't found in other inventions before.

By this time, Edison had a winter home in sunny Florida.  His neighbor was friend Henry Ford. Here is an aerial of the houses together in harmonyThanks to friend James 'skytraffic' Byrd for the awesome pic!!  (How awesomely cool would it have been to knock on either Edison or Ford's doors, just to tell them, 'you are the shit!!'  From Edison, you'd probably got an fast-pitched .. 'yessir' - and from Ford, you'd probably: get a door slammed in your face.


Edison took his newfound invention to Florida with him to share with Ford in the winter of 1892.  Reportedly, Ford found it as fascinating as Edison did.  After returning, he decided to make his invention public in 1893.  Upon grabbing a patent, obviously,  Edison displayed it outside of his labs to a gathering, rather curious crowd.  By the next day, upon Edison's arrival to work, he found crowds of people outside his lab.  Word had spread overnight of the newest invention from 'the wizard of Menlo Park.'  When Edison came through the door of his laboratory, looking out the window at the crowd ... he uttered the words to assistant William Dickson, 'I have created a monster!!'  Purportedly, in the crowd was future movie mogul WIlliam Fox, who had stumbled onto the scene by chance..or waas it??  It was just purported and never confirmed by William Fox, (far as I know.)  Anyhoo - as the fascination grew, so did the number of people who saw dollar signs in this newest invention.  Although a large number of them were from the states, many were newly arrived immigrants.  As popularity grew for Edison's newest POOF... Edison, probably seeing how it may get outta control, tightened patents on this inventions and created, The Edison Motion Picture Trust'The Trust,' as they were called by some, were brutal and charged exorbItant fees.  This was Edison's way of controlling his invention.  Many early film pioneers started moving as far west  as possible to escape Edison's exorbItant patent fees, & his lynch men of 'The Trust.'  They settled in what is now called Los Angeles, California.  This far out west, Edison could not keep his patent as in check ... as he could in/or near, the far away east New Jersey.

By the early 1900's, Edison was growing tired of not having full control of his patent by pioneers exploiting his invention out west.  The first movie studio in the Hollywood area, Nestor Studios, was founded in 1911 by Al Christie for David Horsley in an old building on the northwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower StreetNowadays?

In the same year, another fifteen Independents settled in Hollywood. Hollywood came to be so strongly associated with the film industry that the word "Hollywood" came to be used colloquially to refer to the entire industry.  His company, The Edison Manufacturing Co. (later known as Thomas A. Edison, Inc.) not only built the apparatus for filming and projecting motion pictures, but also sold the film housed in his cameras.  In protest, Edison suspended all sale of film being shipped out west. The pioneers responded by getting their film from Eastman Kodak, who was also on contract to Edison. OOPS!  This REALLY pissed Edison off, & too, was also halted, indefinitely!  Edison prolly stated, no doubt: BIOTCHES!!

Patent royalties to Edison's trust ended in 1917, when, backed by Carl Laemmle (IMP), William Fox won a lawsuit filed stating quote, 'Edison's monopoly over the filming industry was an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade.' The Supreme Court agreed in mass - stipulating quote, 'The Motion Picture Patents Company acts went "far beyond what was necessary to protect the use of patents or the monopoly which went with them," and was 'therefore an illegal restraint of trade under the Sherman Antitrust Act.' An appellate court dismissed the Patent Company's appeal, and officially terminated the 'The Motion Picture Patents Company.' While this freed up the filmmaking pioneers to make films the way they so choose, it was a major blow to Edison. 

The time Edison was in filmmaking, he thrived with many successes. His film company racking up an impressive 341 successful films. News events, disasters, people at work, new modes of travel and technology, scenic views, expositions, comedies, and dramas. The blow of the SCOTUS decision issued Edison a ruptured idea to his invention and later in 1918, Edison's company ceased film production. Several things need to be noted here. While it was Edison's vision, his baby if you will, notably his thirst for control over it reached unreasonable levels. However, if he had not released his invention to the public, it could have had a massive impact on what the filmmaking industry has become today. Meaning the 'big 6' studios could have never been successful and eventually folded like many others did in the early days. Ironically, these days the tables have turned and it seems the 'big 6' control the film industry brutally. Ironically, the company he ultimately founded, General Electric, as of 2010, owned NBC Universal Pictures. Universal was the brains of Carl Laemmle in the early 1900's.  Carl was beneficial in the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court ruling.  So in a way, you could say Edison got the last laugh on that issue. 

Through the years following the closing of his film company, Edison flourished in what he did best.. Never looking back publicly.  He worked right until the end racking up 1,083 patents. NO ONE else has ever even came close.  His son, Charles Edison, was Governor of New Jersey from 1941-44.  In adulthood "Dash", aka Thomas Edison, Jr., sold his name to endorse patent medicines, becoming such an embarrassment to his father that the elder Edison asked his son to stop using the family name, and for a time the younger Edison lived as Thomas Willard. 

On the evening of October 12, 1931, Edison's family was summoned.  It appeared Edison had taken a turn for the worst.  When his sons arrived, he had been lapsing in and out of consciousness. On a final awakening, Edison uttered his last words ... 'It is very beautiful over there.'  With that... He drew his last breath at 3:21AM on Oct 18th, 1931.  A death mask was made.  His friend Henry Ford, had Edison's son, Charles, to seal a test tube of air in the inventor's room shortly after his death, as a memento. Imagine the conversation piece ... 'Wanna see the tube containing Thom's last ever breath on earth??' Anyhoo - you too can see it here, it is housed in The Henry Ford Museum. Edison was 84 at his time of death. He died in his posh home.  His body was placed in the Laboratory building on Lakeside, Avenue in West Orange and thousands of mourners paraded past.


The evening of the day he was buried, countless individuals, communities and corporations throughout the world dimmed their lights, or briefly shut down their power, in tribute. With Mrs Herbert Hover, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone, in attendance, he was buried at Rosedale Cemetery, Orange, New Jersey, with Mina, his second wife buried beside him upon her death. In 1963, the remains of both were exhumed from Rosedale Cemetery and reinterred at Edison's Glenmont estate.  


You can leave your virtual flowers and a comment at his gravesite - by clicking here. 

bottom of page