Thomas Edison and Your Favorite Sports on Film

An Unlikely Candidate for making Sports Viewing Popular

We take sports on film for granted today, expecting them to be exciting and worthy of watching over and over again. We probably never associate the invention of sports films with the same man who gave us the light bulb, phonograph, electric vehicle batteries and lots of other incredible creations. 

However, we must remember he also gave us motion pictures, and that led to a flurry of subject matter being filmed…including sports! Edison Studios is credited for filming the first boxing match, baseball game, hockey game, people surfing in Hawaii, and college football game!

First Hockey Game Filmed in 1901 in Montreal, Canada by Edison Studios

The first sports films were the simple ones a patron could see through a peephole projector – an early version of pay-per-view, if you will. The key here is the subject had to be filmed and preserved on a medium first [celluloid film ala George Eastman]. Later, films were made longer and more extensive so that people could go to a movie theater to see them. This would later develop into cable TV and formalized pay-per-view in an increasingly electronic world. 

In Thomas Edison’s day and even a few years ago, you needed an entire film crew to capture America’s favorite games on film. Today, thanks to a series of innovations…all you need is a phone or a GoPro. Put them on a surfboard to watch someone shoot the pipe, mount them on a car fender to capture racing action, or bring your cell phone to the stadium and film your favorite baseball player. You can send a video to your friends instantly or even become a movie producer by simply creating a Youtube channel.

The first time surfing was captured on film called “Surf Board Riders” filmed in Hawaii, 1906 by Edison Studios.

Thomas Edison said, “The world owes nothing to any man, but every man owes something to the world.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Loved Books as much as he loved Inventing

“I read anything that helps the imagination.”

Whether it is 1847 or 2019, we can all appreciate National Book Lover’s Day. Did you know Thomas Edison had a book collection of up to 30 thousand books in his home alone? That doesn’t even include the ones he took out from other libraries – which is reportedly entire town libraries when he was traveling often in his teenage years! Imagine what he would do with a kindle today.

Thomas Edison’s West Orange corporate library, located at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, has 3 floors full of books!

TThomas Edison’s love for books started when he was young. His mother, who was also his homeschool teacher, encouraged him to read across the panorama of literature – not just what he liked but everything. He once said, “Oh, I read everything! not merely scientific works, but anything that helps the imagination.”

One of Edison’s favorite authors was Thomas Paine, the American Revolution literary patriot. As he got older, he also enjoyed reading the works and accomplishments of his technology hero, Michael Faraday.

Edison may have been one of the first to implement corporate libraries, so inventive employees had the latest and greatest information right at their fingertips. He pioneered this at his Menlo Park lab and later expanded it in his West Orange labs – known today as the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

Books lining the walls of Thomas Edison’s living room of his Glenmont estate. Many of the books on one side of this room are technical compendiums for Edison’s evening inventive marathons.

LConsidering his love for books, Edison would have been honored to have books about him written today. If you are a fellow book lover, today is the perfect day to pick up an excellent biographies about Edison and learn more about his life. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Lenny Degraaf; ”Edison and the Rise of Innovation”
  2. Baldwin, Neil; “Edison, Inventing the Century”
  3. Conot, Robert; “Thomas A. Edison-A Streak of Luck”
  4. Israel, Paul; “Edison-A Life of Invention”
  5. Josephson, Mathew; “Edison”

RLeft: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Brings Innovation to Western Films

Extra, Extra! Bandits had the bright idea to rob a train and now have a posse in hot pursuit.

There is gunfire, people tied up, and even shot. A fireman is thrown from the moving train. Audiences cowered in fear, as the posse was in hot pursuit, cornering the bandits in a secluded wooded area and dealing out justice.  

The Great Train Robbery of 1903 was the first action & Western film in history.

TThis is the gist of the 1903, 12 minute epic drama, The Great Train Robbery,  filmed in Milltown, NJ. Film historians generally consider this Edison Manufacturing Studio’s film to be the first American action film and the first Western film. It could have been inspired by a 1900 train robbery perpetrated by the famous Butch Cassidy.

The Great Train Robbery surprised viewers so much that they reportedly had the audience ducking behind the seat in front of them, or even running from the theater. In a scene at the end of the film, the camera focuses on the bandit leader, played by Justus D. Barnes, who then empties his hog-legged .45 revolver directly into the camera. 

How’s this for realism?! The scene from The Great Train Robbery that scared people out of theaters, 1903.

However, that wasn’t the only wild part of this Western. The man behind the camera and directing was Edwin S. Porter, whose prolific career would eventually include over 250 films made him the most influential filmmaker in the United States. 

Porter was one of the first to use a variety of innovative film techniques in this $150 budgeted classic film including location shooting, minor camera moving, and pan shots. The jump-cuts that he used in editing the film were a new and sophisticated way of showing two events happening at the same time but in different places, making the plot more interesting than it once was.

Action and special effects made The Great Train Robbery thrilling for people in 1903.

BIf this film reminds you of your old Saturday morning Western skits, you wouldn’t be wrong. The innovation of the film set the tone for action-packed Western Movies for years to come. The iconic scene of gunshots making someone dance was born in this film. Furthermore, even media historian, James Chapman, believed that the straight at the camera gun shooting may have inspired the gun barrel sequence of the James Bond films!

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Brought Frankenstein to Life First

Thomas Edison Brought Frankenstein to Life First

Mary Shelley painted the picture, but Edison made it move!

Virtually everyone knows the story about Frankenstein and most have viewed some movie adaptation of it, whether scary, animated, or a parody. Many associate the very funny version of Frankenstein with the late Gene Wilder’s madcap antics as Dr. Frankenstein. However, very few people realize the first adaptation to film of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic classic was done in 1910 at the Edison Movie Studio in the Bronx, New York, but Thomas Edison’s movie production company.

For about 40 years the film was considered lost, with only some pictures and paraphernalia still existing; until a Wisconsin movie collector disclosed his treasure. The real value of the film was realized in the 1970s, whereupon the film was preserved onto a 35 MM format. In 2014, the Library of Congress preserved the movie.

Filmed over a 3 day period, the now historically significant 14 minute film was directed by L. Searle Dawley and originally released on March 18, 1910. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée.

You should take note that in the very early days of motion pictures, audiences were very important to the industry’s formative growth. This film was considered a liberal adaptation of Shelley’s novel, with the potentially repulsive aspects of the story toned down and the psychological aspects of it emphasized instead. 

The Frankenstein Beast Confronts Himself in a Mirror

Okay, so you twisted our arms….here are some clips of the subsequent “Young Frankenstein” movie from Gene Wilder that you might recognize more. Enjoy, and remember who started the horror movie trend — old Tom Edison himself!

Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.
Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.
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