Thomas Edison: Inventor & Thief
Everyone expected Edison to invent moving pictures. He was the great savior, the messiah of the machine age. Movies didn`t just pop up over night. As early as 1872 Eadweard Muybridge was doing motion studies in California. And in 1888 he asked Edison for help in perfecting the Muybride film projecton system.
What most people do not know is that Edison ran a sweat shop think-tank and brought out all the fruits of his hired labor under his brand name and patent. In 1890 an English inventor named William Friese-Greene, hoping to join this invertor`s club and wrongly thinking his moving picture process was protected by patent, set copies of his research to Edison.
Edison did not give Friese-Greene a job but he did give Friese-Greene`s research to W. K. L. Dickson. Dickson was the Edison wage slave that had the movie bug. He was the driving force behind film. Edison was against projecting images in a theater setting. Edison was looking for a better nickelodeon device.
In 1890 Emile Reynaud opened his Theatre Optique in Paris with projected hand painted film. Some think of Reynaud as the first film animator even if he did work before film was invented. When Edison got the patent on moving picture Reynaud threw his equipment and films into the Seine and ended his days in the mad house.
Maybe Old Tom Edison didn`t think there was any money in showing moving pictures to a crowd. That didn`t stop him from undercutting the competition by announcing in the early 1890s that he already had moving pictures working in his lab but was not going to release them until he had sound attached. In later days this practice of false P.R. as a way to crush the competion would be know as vaporware and would be considered unethical if not illegal.
When Edison came around to the view that he needed a projection system he bought one from Thomas Armat. When the first Edison (sic) moving picture was displayed in 1896 at Koster & Bial`s Music Hall in New York City is was Armat who played the projectionist in the back of the room for his own invention the Vitascope. It was he that made the Leigh Sisters do their Umbrella Dance in the projected light. It was Edison who stood in the front of the room and took all the credit.
Edison then protected his stolen idea with a hired band of club welding thugs who would bust up the equipment and the operators of movie cameras not paying him for use of his patent. One of the reasons that the film capital of the world is in Hollywood is because filmmakers were trying to get away from edison`s club welding thugs who chased them across the country.
Even on the other side of the country filmmakers had to fear Edison`s thugs. Samuel Goldfish, later Goldwyn, use to sleep with all his exposed film under his bed and a shot gun propt agaist the night table for fear of the look arm of this beloved inventor.
So when I walk down Hollywood Boulevard and I come to the name Thomas Edison inventor of Motion Pictures looking up at me all pompous in his manufactured image I step right on his star and I grind my the ball of my boot into the metal trying to grind off some of his stolen glory.