May 1, 2009 Paul Spehr Lectures on Making Movies with William Kennedy Laurie Dickson at the Library of Congress

Contact: Mike Mashon (202) 707-5698

William Kennedy Laurie Dickson is considered one of the most influential people in the creation of early motion pictures. His cinematic legacy has been chronicled in “The Man Who Made Movies: W. K. L. Dickson,” written by Paul Spehr, former assistant chief of Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress. Spehr will present two illustrated lectures highlighting Dickson’s pioneering work in films at the Library. The first is at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 2, in the Packard Campus Theater in Culpeper, Va., and the second is at 7 p.m., Monday, May 4, in the Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Dickson was an artist, musician and skilled photographer employed by Thomas Edison, who put him in charge of a project to “do for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” By 1891, Dickson had succeeded in recording photographs on transparent celluloid. He then designed Edison’s camera and a peep-show viewing machine called the Kinetoscope. They both used a 35mm film format, which is still being used today. He trained staff to make films and established facilities to produce and show movies to the public, including a studio and a production laboratory. In 1895, Dickson left Edison and joined friends in establishing a rival company, the American Mutoscope Co. He moved to England in 1898 and had produced more than 500 films by 1900.

Spehr’s presentation will showcase examples of Dickson’s film productions, along with background information about his experiments and the filmmaking process. In addition to examples of the earliest movies, there will be films of the fastest trains, military reviews, scenes from the Boer War, and views of such prominent Victorians as the strongman Eugene Sandow, boxer James J. Corbett, Annie Oakley, President William McKinley, Pope Leo XIII and Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. Copies of Spehr’s book will be available for purchase.


PR 09-095
ISSN 0731-3527