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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article


Silent Movies - The Birth Of The Movies

Author: James F. Spears

( Article orginally From July 1952 By Hobbies)

Unfolded in yesterday's cinema drama were the names of many, unknown to a ourrent generation, such names as W. S. Hart, Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand, Charles Chaplin, Theda Bara, Wallace Reid, Francis X. Bushman, Pearl White, "Fatty" Arbuckle, Lillian Gish, Tom Mix, to mention but a few, stars of the Edison, Vitagraph, Biograph, Pathe, Lubin, Selig cinema productions, and many others.

Some years ago it was my good luck to rescue from oblivion possibly the only portable antique moving picture machine extant. It is portable in the sense it was strapped to the back of a tramp, who saw fit to introduce to the hills of Eastern Pennsylvania, a pre-Hollywood version of a moving picture in color. Its construction, styling, wrought iron nails, butterfly hinges, indicate a positive date of 1800, possibly earlier? Its local existence indicates well defined family lore and tradition, proving the existence of a tramp owner prior to the Franco-Prussian war, who saw fit to return to do his bit, never to return, consequently gathering dust for some 70 odd years on a local attic, until located by the author. Much wear indicates possibly one or two prior owners, though this is conjecture.

Thus the pioneer hardy emigre of Eastern Pennsylvania, accustomed to years of hardship, no doubt bid fond welcome to this colorful? knight of the dusty road, on an occasion equally as scarce, seldom encountered, in these satellite acres of primitive Pennsylvania, and whether by the gifts of the gods or the machination of good old Queen Anne, the reader alone may surmise. Its barn like features include two rear barn-like doors to admit sunlight, an inside mirror, a six inch convex glass enclosed in a slide lid peephole, and a crank controlling various interchangeable ten inch colored paper rolls. Those found with the machine no doubt brought back nostalgic memories to these early emigrants, for here in rapid succession on turning the crank, re-appeared the scenes only too familiar to these earlier emigre, the hundreds of views of cultural Germany and such, all of a century and a half ago. . Scraps found by the author included some choice Colonial views, though of Germanic origin, 'with much mice chewing.

Luckily there were no tax admission charges to this pre-Hollywood viewing, whether the cross roads country store, or the village tavern. With no doubt a large copper penny deposit, those more courageous, saw an enlarged colorful version of 1800 Continental Europe re-appear, reflected both light and paper image through the 6 inch peep hole... Thus, Hollywood style, was brought to Pennsylvania, pioneer entertainment, that Queen Anne herself might have enjoyed.



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