Sign in or register
for additional privileges

“Fine Dignity, Picturesque Beauty, and Serious Purpose”:

The Reorientation of Suffrage Media in the Twentieth Century

Emily Scarbrough, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Early Film

Before understanding how suffragists came to utilize the medium of film, it is first important to understand the significance of the technological and cultural advances that allowed the film industry to develop into such a useful tool. The earliest motion pictures scarcely resembled any modern notion of film. They were simple scenes of horses galloping, little girls dancing, and men strolling along. Thomas Edison debuted the kinetoscope at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The machine was a small box that displayed a series of photographs taken in quick succession to capture movement. For a small fee men and women could see everyday objects and people in motion.

Fredd Ott's Sneeze (1894) - a five second film featuring a man’s sneeze - was the first copyrighted motion picture in the United States, with it, the nation began a long history of creating and consuming film. The magic of movement was not all that was necessary to captivate audiences. 

Soon the kinetoscopes found along streets or in special parlors were slowly losing their appeal. The boom of the kinetoscope waned in 1894, but the film industry was just in its infancy.While kinetoscopes were limited in that they only showed very short clips and only to a single person at a time, the innovation of the film projector quickly reshaped the way that Americans consumed entertainment. After the projector was developed film became a group activity that allowed families to enjoy entertainment together. For about the first ten years of the film industry very short films were shown at Vaudeville performances. Vaudevilles were variety shows that featured different acts with no thematic connection. The venue provided films with audiences larger than the single viewer experience of a peepshow. Out of this early tradition emerged the first known film featuring a suffragist. Unsurprisingly, the depiction was not a positive one.


Comment on this page

Discussion of "Early Film"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...