American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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Advertising Pictures

American Entertainment Company
Donaldson Lithograph
American Entertainment Company
Cincinnati: Donaldson Litho., ca. 1898
Prints & Photographs Division

American Edison's Greatest Marvel The Vitascope
Metropolitan Print, New York
Edison's Greatest Marvel The Vitascope
Lithograph, 1896
Prints & Photographs Division

American lithographic companies were quick to secure motion picture accounts, banking on the success of this new medium. These early stock advertisements often depicted audiences watching a projected image in a music hall or vaudeville theater, where in fact the first films were presented beginning on April 23, 1896 in New York City, with the presentation of six short films, two of them hand-tinted.

Included in the debut were Robert Paul's "Rough Sea at Dover" taken in England; a scene from the theatrical production of "A Milk Flag," a tableau vivant featuring Uncle Sam, John Bull, Venezuela and the Monroe Doctrine; and two dance films.

The first poster design pictures a generic film scene of a marching army--a popular short subject of the time--and allots space in the top border for film exhibitors like the American Entertainment Company to advertise. The second poster is an advertisement for Edison's marvel, the Vitascope. Although the Vitascope was invented by C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat, Thomas Edison was enlisted to supply the film and to manufacture the projector under his imprimatur.

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