historical roots of the Academy Awards

The Holland Brothers opened the first commercial movie exhibition business in a converted shoe store in New York on April 14, 1894. For 25 cents, a customer could view five of the ten, roughly half-minute films available for viewing in Kinetoscopes.  Thomas Edison made the films in his Black Maria studio in West Orange, New Jersey.  The films offered were:

  1. Sandow.  Eugen Sandow was a German strongman.  Probably this 1894 Sandow film.
  2. Roosters.  A cockfight.  Probably this cockfight film.
  3. Bertoldi (mouth support).  Ena Bertoldi was a British vaudeville contortionist.  Film apparently not available on the Internet.  Here’s contortionist D. Odbayasakh performing this move at the opening of the Hamtdaa: Together exhibit of Mongolian culture.
  4. Bertoldi (table contortion).
  5. Wrestling.
  6. Barber Shop.  Probably this 1893 film.
  7. Blacksmiths.  Probably this film, minus the music.
  8. Horse Shoeing.
  9. Highland Dance.
  10. Trapeze.  Probably this 12.5 second film of a Louis Martinelli trapeze performance.

The Holland Brothers movie exhibition venture was immediately successful.  Within two months the Holland Brothers had opened similar businesses in Chicago and San Francisco.  Here’s some of the subjects available on Kinetoscope films, 1893-1895:

voluptuous Spanish dancer Carmencita, French dancer Armand d’Ary (real name Marthe Armandary), Mexican tightrope dancer Juan Caicedo, comic boxers the Glenroy Brothers, further comic boxers Walton (Charles F.) and Slavin (John C.), genuine boxers Mike Leonard and Jack Cushing, Spanish contortionist Louis Martinelli, Gaiety Girls Lucy Murray and May Lucas, the Rixfords troupe of acrobats, Robetta and Doretto in a Chinese laundry, Princess Ali with her Dance du Ventre (belly dance), George Layman (the original ‘man with a thousand faces’), several artists from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, casts of shows such as Charles Hoyt’s A Milk White Flag, and numerous performing animals

When New Jersey State Senator and Asbury Park town founder James Bradley discussed with Thomas Edison bringing film exhibition to Asbury Park, Bradley objected strongly to the film of the dancer Carmencita.  He was afraid that it would shock modesty and purity.  So arrangements were made to show instead Boxing Cats (see video above).

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