Victorian London - Photography and Optical - Early Cinema - Theatrograph

A great step forward was made when Mr. Robert Paul in London succeeded in persuading a firm to produce celluloid film which could be coated with light-sensitive emulsion, but at first it was found impossible to obtain strips of celluloid of uniform thickness owing to the primitive methods for producing it then in existence. Mr. Eastman of Rochester U.S.A. had succeeded in making a dry plate in 1884, and the following year he invented a folding camera using roll film, the parent of the Kodak. This attracted the great Edison, who developed the basic principle of the Wheel Of Life into a scientifically designed instrument for making and reproducing animated photography. It was introduced to the public under the title of Edison's Kinetoscope, and was shown at the World's Fair at Chicago in 1893. However, it proved only a nine days wonder, for only one person could view the films at a time looking through the eyehole of the machine in which a coin had to be inserted.
    Mr. Robert Paul was attracted by this invention, and himself made several models, which he sup-plied to buyers from all parts of the world, one of his first customers being M. Charles Pathé. 
    Meanwhile, the Americans had also entered the market, but Paul produced the first British camera and projector, and gave his first public demonstration of moving pictures with his Theatograph at the Finsbury Technical College, causing great interest and excitement. On Feb. 28 th 1896, he again exhibited his invention in the Library of the Royal institution of Great Britain before an audience of distinguished scientists, by whom he was heartily congratulated. 
    Sir Augustus Harris, the great impresario, saw possibilities in this Theatograph of Paul's as a form of amusement, and proposed installing it at Olympia, which he had then just bought. Paul was very doubtful of the results that would come from such an exhibition, but it proved to be the most popular entertainment at Olympia, which was the first picture palace in the world. In France, the brothers Lumière were also investigating this new form of photography, and introduced a camera which, however, failed to gain a foothold owing to the size of the film and of the perforations, which were different from those generally in use.

Alfred J West,  Sea Salts and Celluloid (Diary)
see Alfred John West site