The historical significance of primacy doesn't stop there for "Blacksmith Scene", though. Its May 1893 showing tested the Kinetoscope's commercial viability. On 14 April 1894, the first public Kinetoscope parlour opened in New York--their first commercial exhibition. Included among the 10 films that made up the original program was "Blacksmith Scene" (referred to as "Blacksmiths"). "Horse Shoeing" was there, too. Of the more interesting films also shown that day were: "Barber Shop" (1894), which was another interesting early use of the "Black Maria" as a (now) conventional studio set with a proto fictional narrative. And, "Sandow" (1894) flexing and posing in a loincloth offered an example of the voyeuristic and sexualized potential for the new medium--accentuated by the individualized peephole viewer. On 17 October of the same year, "Blacksmith Scene" (referred to as "Blacksmith Shop") was also part of the first Kinetoscope program in England.
In addition to its primacy in the commercial exhibition of motion pictures, "Blacksmith Scene" is also a historically noteworthy film in how it's staged to form an artificial setting and fictional narrative. As primitive as it appears today, it was probably the most complex film made to date. Before its filming, Dickson and Heise had filmed brief displays of sport, such as boxing, which would prove a very popular subject in early American film. Other experiments such as "Dickson Greeting" (1891) and "A Hand Shake" (1892) were mere recordings of the motion of gestures and weren't released commercially. So too were the early experiments by others like Louis Le Prince and Woodsworth Donisthorpe. Thus, the history of film as a commercial industry begins with "Blacksmith Scene".
Although with a slightly less restrictive definition of "motion pictures", one could argue that Eadweard Muybridge, Ottomar Anschütz, Émile Reynaud and others beat Thomas Edison to it. Nevertheless, this film is a departure from anything made before.
The film, "Blacksmith Scene", consists of a stationary long shot lasting around half a minute of three blacksmiths who take a brief break from blacksmithing to pass around a bottle of beer. It's primitive--a silhouette of a man standing in front of the camera and on the left-hand side of the frame is briefly seen before, I assume, being told to move out of the picture. The trademark sunlit shadows and black background of the "Black Maria" become an overused setting in the early Edison films, but in regards to the time of this film, it wasn't hackneyed yet. Nevertheless, there are three actors (in actuality, employees of Edison who worked on the invention of the Kinetoscope) pretending to be blacksmiths, and they act out a fictional scene of blacksmithing.
Moreover, as Charles Musser has pointed out, the film's narrative is nostalgic--recalling a bygone era when drinking while working was commonplace. In this sense, the film is a reconstruction of the past--something that the Edison Company would take further in "The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots" (1895).
"Blacksmith Scene" received widespread distribution--was, in fact, one of the first such films to be seen by many, and as such, was one of the earliest films to influence other filmmakers and to encourage remakes. The Lumière Company remade it as "Les Forgerons" (Blacksmiths at Work) in 1895. Also with the title "Blacksmiths at Work" is James Williamson's film made in 1898. The Edison Company, itself, remade it in 1895 (actually their third blacksmithing scene--the first being a now-lost experiment in 1891). Although not influenced by these commercial films (or vice versa), blacksmithing was also the subject of scientific analyses around this time in films of Albert Londe, as well as Étienne-Jules Marey and Charles Fremont.
(Note: This is the second in a series of my comments on 10 "firsts" in film history. The other films covered are Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888), Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1895), The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (1895), La Sortie des usines Lumière (1895), L' Arroseur arose (1895), L' Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat (1896), Panorama du Grand Canal vu d'un bateau (1896), Return of Lifeboat (1897) and Panorama of Eiffel Tower (1900).)