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Edison Drawn by 'World' Artist (1896)

Artist draws Thomas Edison.

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J. Stuart Blackton, cartoonist for the New York Evening World, is demonstrating his skill at making 'lightning sketches'. Here, he rapidly draws a picture of the inventor and motion picture pioneer Thomas Edison. His sketch shows Edison from the neck up. Written by Snow Leopard

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Documentary | Short

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April 1896 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Blackton Sketches, No. 1  »

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Followed by Blackton Sketches, No. 3 (1896) See more »

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The first celebrity newsreel?
17 April 2003 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

J. Stuart Blackton was an important figure in the early history of American movies. Born in Yorkshire, he emigrated to New York City as a youth, and at age 21 he was employed by the New York 'Evening World' as a cub reporter and sketch artist. Shortly after Thomas Edison announced his invention of the wonderful new moving-picture device the Vitascope (actually developed by Edison's assistant W.K.L. Dickson), Blackton's editor sent him to New Jersey to interview the great inventor.

Edison's office manager, W.E. Gilmore, did not want Blackton to interview Edison at all, but Edison granted the interview. Blackton had to bellow into Edison's right ear, as the inventor was nearly deaf. When Edison inquired about the sketchbook under Blackton's arm, Blackton opened it and drew some quick sketches for Edison.

The inventor had a well-developed sense of showmanship. Sensing an opportunity for his new invention, he ordered his assistants to set up the Vitascope apparatus and take footage of himself sitting for a charcoal sketch while Blackton drew his portrait. While the camera cranked, Edison (clearly seen to be speaking onscreen) ordered Blackton to sign the sketch. Sensing the publicity value of this, Blackton signed his name onscreen ... and then added the words 'Cartoonist of the NY Evening World'.

Public curiosity about Edison was rampant at the time, and Edison's Vitascope company released the film throughout America. Because thousands of people saw it, this film reaped tremendous publicity for Blackton's newspaper and for Blackton himself ... so much so, that he was soon able to leave the Evening World and go into business for himself as a moving-picture entrepreneur. He purchased one of the very first Vitascope cameras which Edison's company made commercially available: Vitascope camera #13.

This movie is probably the earliest cinema footage of Thomas Edison, and certainly the first footage of Blackton ... an important motion-picture figure in his own right. For its historic significance, I'll rate this movie 10 out of 10.


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