Motion Picture Projector

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Some scholars credit Dayton, Ohio, native Charles Francis Jenkins and a colleague with inventing the motion picture projector. In 1891, Jenkins worked as a stenographer for the federal government in Washington, DC. In his free time, Jenkins tried to develop a motion picture projector. By 1892, he had succeeded in developing a machine that could project small moving pictures on a wall or screen, but the pictures were too small to be viewed by a large audience.

In 1895, Jenkins entered into a business relationship with Thomas Armat. Together, the two men improved Jenkins's early invention. The two inventors unveiled their projector at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, in September 1895. Armat and Jenkins charged people twenty-five cents to view moving pictures, which were projected from the phantoscope, Jenkins's and Armat's projector. Many historians give credit to Jenkins and Armat for also developing the movie theater to show their films at the Cotton States Exposition.

Jenkins's and Armat's relationship did not last. In October, Jenkins took one of the three phantoscopes that the two men had manufactured to Richmond, Indiana, his boyhood home, to show residents his moving pictures. He also filed a patent for the phantoscope, claiming that he was the sole inventor, although an earlier patent claimed that Jenkins and Armat were joint presenters. In the end, the U.S. Patent Office granted Jenkins and Armat the patent, rejecting Jenkins's claim that he was solely responsible for the phantoscope. Angered with the Patent Office's decision, Jenkins continued to say that he had developed the phantoscope in 1894 and projected images for audiences in Richmond, Indiana, as early as June 6, 1894. Jenkins also entered into an agreement with the Columbia Phonograph Company to manufacture the phantoscope. In the meantime, Armat began negotiations to sell the phantoscope patent to Thomas Alva Edison. Jenkins later sold his rights to the phantoscope to Armat, who then sold the rights to Edison.

Thomas Alva Edison's laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey had perfected the motion picture camera and a "peephole" viewer to see motion pictures beginning in 1888. Edison had not followed through with a projection system because the single person viewers were successful. Seeing that a public projection system was needed, Edison acquired the rights to the phantoscope and marketed it as the "Vitascope". In 1896, Edison began selling his own "Projectoscope" or Projecting Kinescope.

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