History of Cinema 19 – Edison’s Vitascope

The Vitascope, Thomas Edison’s premiere motion picture apparatus, was created by Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat in 1895, the same year the Lumiere brothers created a competitive device.


However, it was not called the Vitascope. Jenkins and Armat created the Phantoscope. It was demonstrated at the Cotton State Exposition in Atlanta. Armat and Jenkins fought over the credit, leading to the dissolve of their partnership.


Armat took the Phantoscope on the road, looking for a buyer. Armat sold it to the Kinetiscope Company as they were very eager to acquire new tech.

Kinetoscope lacked the funds to finance mass producing the Phantoscope. They approach Edison, who agreed to finance it as long as they gave him sole credit for the device.

The Phantoscope was renamed the Vitascope and production began. It’s first exhibition was in April 1896 at the Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City.

It was soon joined by a re-engineered Eidoloscope, Lumiere’s Cinematograph, Brit Acres’ Kineopticon, and American Mutoscope Company’s Biograph.

The Edison company soon developed the Projectoscope and abandoned the Vitascope completely.


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