Use "The Wayback Machine"
for broken links
This is mainly a selection of some of the best websites on early
cinema, broadly defined as the period of filmmaking to 1914, when
Charles Urban's career was at its height. Also included are some
general sites on pre-cinema, silent cinema, colour cinematography,
and Urban-related themes such as phonographs. Most sites that mention
Urban are included. The Internet is not, on the whole, a good source
of secure information on early film. Some sites exist which notably
apply rigorous standards and can be recommended for their reliability,
such as CineGraph, Quellen zur Filmgeschichte,
Film Bookshelf, and the various excellent resources offered
by the Library of Congress,
and most of the sites below are trustworthy. What the Internet does
very well, of course, is to provide illustrations, and the beauties
within a site such as Anima illustrate the
great value of the (moving) image over a surfeit of words - something
that Urban would have agreed with wholeheartedly.
Marshall's Interactive Webplace ("Selling the West")
An essay on the use of film by the Canadian Pacific Railway in
the marketing of Canada to potential emigrants in the 1890s and
1900s, including reference to the Living Canada series
made by the Charles Urban Trading Company.
A huge collection of biographical information on inventors of
all kinds, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Thomas Edison, with some
emphasis on cinema's inventors and pioneers, such as Birt Acres,
Robert Paul, W-K.L. Dickson, Georges Demeny, Eadweard Muybridge
and Urban's associate G.A. Smith. All gathered together by Dr
Russell Naughton, with photographs and links to the sources of
information. The site also features Magic
Machines, a timeline history of the moving image "from Antiquity
John West F.R.G.S. - Film Pioneer
Alfred West of Southsea became renowned for his popular 'multi-media'
(film, photography, song, lecture) patriotic show Our Navy
which toured widely from 1898, giving many people their first
view of film. He also supplied some films for Urban. Basic information,
and extracts from West's unpublished autobiography, all put together
by his great-grandson.
- American Film
General site on America's "only national arts organization devoted
to film, television and video", with an online cinema showing
a selection of clips from silent shorts. It also includes the
gaudy but exhaustive CineMedia
guide to film links on the Net.
Memory from the Library of Congress
Incomparable collection of early film clips from the Library of
Congress, with substantial supporting information. Includes turn-of-the-century
views of New York, the origins of American animation, American
variety acts, views from the Spanish-American War, and the most
recent addition, the Theodore Roosevelt collection (an accompanying
essay, T.R. on Film, credits Charles Urban as the donor
of some of these films).
- The American WideScreen
Museum & Early Color Processes Resource
A lively and well-illustrated survey by Martin Hart of the history
of motion picture systems, with clear explanations and sample
frames (demonstrating the colour effect) of the Lee and Turner
three-colour system that preceded Kinemacolor, and of Kinemacolor
itself and its rival additive colour systems.
The Association of Moving Image Archivists, "a non-profit professional
association established to advance the field of moving image archiving
by fostering cooperation among individuals and organizations concerned
with the collection, preservation, exhibition and use of moving
Charl Lucassen's remarkable site includes some hypnotic animations
of the work of 19th century sequence photographers, or chronophotographers,
such as Eadweard Muybridge (a wide selection available), E-J.
Marey and Albert Londe, in a section entitled Chronophotographical Projections.
There are other sections showing animations of the proto-cinema
work of Wordsworth Donisthorpe and Louis Le Prince, and optical
toys. The beauties of the site have been somewhat obscured by
its recent elaborate redesign. In Dutch and English.
- Archivio del
Wide selection of pre-cinema and early cinema animations (viewable
with Windows Media Player), including titles by Ottomar Anschutz,
Albert Londe, Eadweard Muybridge, E-J. Marey, Lucien Bull, Georges
Demeny, the Lumieres, Skladanowskys and Edison. Text in Italian.
Française de Recherche sur l'Histoire du Cinéma
A fine site for those with a scholarly interest in early cinema,
including news, photos, links and details of the AFRHC journal
1895. In English and French.
Extensively illustrated site of a collector of still and motion
picture cameras, including many early cameras such as the Lumière
Cinématographe and the Demeny Chronophotographe. Text mainly in
Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture
The late Bill Douglas, filmmaker and enthusiast for early and
pre-cinema in all its many manifestiations, amassed a vast collection
of books and artefacts. After his death the collection was donated
by his partner Peter Jewell to the University of Exeter, which
has now set up the Bill Douglas Centre, with the Bill Douglas
and Peter Jewell Collection as its centrepiece. See examples from
the collection, including magic lantern slides, panoramas, Chapliniana
and treasures from cinema's heyday in the 1930s and 40s.
A detailed and very interesting technical article by Billy Bitzer,
D.W. Griffith's cameraman, on the 70mm Biograph camera that he
used at the turn of the century, prior to his time with Griffith.
Buried deep within the Society of
Operating Cameramen site, and originally published in its
journal The Operating Cameraman.
- Biograph - The Oldest Movie
Company in the World
Rather oddly, a site claiming to be the still active American
Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Mostly devoted to the later Biograph
period when D.W. Griffith was directing, but has a biographical
entry on Biograph's co-founder W.K-L. Dickson (later a business
rival of Urban's), with numerous errors.
- Black Film
A selection of downloadable early films (QuickTime) showing black
Americans, including Edison's The Pickanninies (1894) and
A Morning Bath (1896). Produced by Indiana University's
Department of Afro-American Studies.
- British Film Institute
The BFI has excellent resources on early cinema, notably in its
National Film and Television Archive, which holds the majority
of Urban's surviving films. Only a little of these riches is indicated
by its website, which includes a catalogue of British silent comedies
(including some Urban productions) and articles from Sight
and Sound magazine on Edwin S. Porter and Louis Feuillade.
- British Pathe
British Pathe are the owners of the newsreel library of Pathe
Gazette and Pathe News, a collection which stretches
from 1896 to 1970, though the newsreel itself began in 1910. There
is a searchable database (designed for commercial users), some
quirky synopses, and a number of viewable moving images.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for "Motion pictures, history
of: Early Years, 1893-1910" is as sound and comprehensive an account
of the early cinema period as one could hope to find. The sections
of the "Motion Pictures" entry on colour mention of Kinemacolor.
Pioneers of Macedonian cinema, Yanaki and Milton Manaki, who started
their cinema careers with a Bioscope from the Charles Urban Trading
- The Chaplin Society
Formed in 1999, the Chaplin Society aims to be a focus for all
those with a general and scholarly interest in Chaplin worldwide.
The site gives the society's general aims, news of events and
screenings, and links to numerous other Chaplin sites.
Scholarly site on all aspects of the history of cinema, from a
well-respected publisher. Text-heavy and in German, with a general
site guide in English.
Average site on Georges Méliès, French magician and master of
fantasy in the early years of cinema, who filmed a dramatisation
of the coronation of Edward VII for Urban. Includes a biography
and filmography. In French.
- Classic Images
The site for the American collectors and film buffs' journal ranges
widely over aspects of cinema history. The extensive book reviews
section (mostly by Anthony Slide) includes a number of early cinema
Vintage Film (Movie Cine) Cameras and Projectors
Enthusiastic site from a Dutch collector of cinema equipment,
with a lengthy list of makes of different kinds of cameras and
projectors, and many illustrations from his collection, including
the Urban products the Biokam, Kinora and Spirograph. Includes
the lavishly illustrated page One Hundred Years of Film Sizes.
A stimulating and wide-ranging essay on colour in early silent
film by Tom Gunning, which emphasises the unreal, 'sensual' attractions
of colour tinting over the drive for naturalism represented by
a system such as Kinemacolor. Gunning places the use of colour
in early film within a broader cultural and commercial history.
Published as part of an issue of the Italian journal Fotogenia
devoted to film colour. Also available online is Color
in Motion, an introductory essay by Monica Dall'Asta and Guglielmo
Pescatore. In Italian and English, with illustrations and notes.
- The Complete History
of the Discovery of Cinematography
A hugely ambitious attempt by Paul Burns to trace the origins
of motion pictures from 900 BC through to the arrival of cinematography
at the end of the 19th century. The quality of the information
is variable, too often plain wrong, and does not begin to challenge
a published work such as Hermann Hecht's Pre-Cinema History
(1993), but the undertaking is courageous and imaginative, and
the illustrations are very welcome.
- The Dead
The Dead Media Project, brainchild of Bruce Sterling, is a huge
gathering together of evidence on forms of public communication
that are now obsolete, from the pigeon post to ancient Irish fire
beacons. Dead means of communicating by moving pictures are naturally
included, and include media with which Urban was associated, such
as the Kinora, Kinoplastikon and Kinemacolor, as well as host
of still more exotically-named inventions. An amazing undertaking,
Movie clips (using Quicktime) from the films of D.W. Griffith,
including several examples from his American Biograph period with
such classic titles as The Musketeers of Pig Alley and
An Unseen Enemy.
- A Different
Kind of Cinema
An unillustrated guide to the study of silent film, written by
Bruce Hodsdon for the National Library of Australia's Film Studies
Collection. Provides introductory comments on acting, music, film
speeds, early cinema, Australian silent film, German and American
films of the 1920s.
Site devoted to silent film actresses, especially the Italian
'divas' such as Lyda Borelli and Francesca Bertini, plus other
femme fatales such as Asta Nielsen and Theda Bara. With biographies,
essays and illustrations. In Italian.
Basic site devoted to Italian 'diva' actress Lyda Borelli. In
The site of the international organisation of scholars interested
in early cinema, which holds bi-annual conferences, including
an on-line bulletin and a list of members. In English and French.
- Eadweard Muybridge:
Father of Motion Pictures
An imaginative and handsomely designed site on chronophotographer
Eadweard Muybridge, including instant animations of some of his
famous photographic sequences.
- Eadweard Muybridge
of Kingston upon Thames
"The Father of the Motion Picture" was born in Kingston-upon-Thames,
and this biographical site is richly illustrated with examples
from the local museum's collection. A second, more detailed site,
has now been developed, The Eadweard
Muybridge Bequest, which gives further details on the Museum's
collection and is very much geared towards those with study interests
A selection of Quick Time movie clips of films made by Biograph
and Edison from the 1897-1905 period, which derive from the Library
of Congress Paper Print Collection. Part of an educational site
produced by the Center for History and New Media.
- The Edison Film
An interesting site devoted to a beautifully hand-coloured copy
of an Edison film from the 1890s, which is actually composed of
three individual clips of skirt dancers, one of whom is Annabelle.
- Edison National Historic
Site Home Page
Informative site on all aspects of Thomas Edison's prolific career,
including film. The site is currently closed for improvements.
However, parts are still accessible, notably the extensive photographic
collection on display at Collection-Edison NHS.
- Edison's Frankenstein
A now notorious site which has been for some while offering video
copies of the long-lost 1910 Edison version of Frankenstein
which have not as yet been forthcoming.
Ouimet - un moment dans la vie culturelle des Montréalais
Basic account of Canadian film pioneer Ouimet, with contemporary
news reports. In French.
- The Fantômas
Basic information on the novels and films about the French popular
fiction hero Fantômas, including film stills and synopses.
- Le Giornate
del Cinema Muto
More commonly known as the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (after
its location up until 1998), this is the site of the world's premier
meeting place for silent films, scholars, archivists and enthusiasts.
The Giornate also publishes the journal Griffithiana. The
site gives some details of the October 2000 programme, which will
include strands on Louis Feuillade, Walter Lantz, D.W. Griffith
in 1910, the German avant garde, and the Mutoscope and Biograph
companies. In English and Italian.
The site of an early cinema studies research group in Quebec,
interested in early cinema issues both in Quebec and worldwide.
Those sections of the site devoted to current projects are at
present under construction. In French.
- Grand Illusions
Though not on cinema as such, this excellent, eye-opening site
illuminatingly covers "optical illusions, scientific toys, visual
effects, and even a little magic". Plenty to delight, intrigue
and amaze, and includes an essay by Stephen Herbert on the persistence
of vision fallacy.
Named after the pioneering ethnographer A.C. Haddon, whose 1898
expedition to the Torres Straits took a cine camera, this is an
"online catalogue of archival ethnographic films and film footage
shot during the first half-century of cinema". Many of the films
listed come from the BFI's National Film and Television Archive.
- Hollywood Studio
The current fate of many Hollywood studios of the past, including
those of Lubin, Jesse L. Lasky and Charlie Chaplin, all illustrated.
- The Internet Movie Database
The IMDb's coverage of silent film generally is constantly improving,
as numerous dedicated and attentive contributors supply generally
reliable information. But a look at Charles Urban's few credits
makes it clear that its coverage of early cinema remains minimal
and rather eccentric.
of Film Preservation
This journal is published by FIAF, the international federation
of film archives, and the site includes articles from back numbers
of the journal, mostly of a practical nature.
- La Lanterna Magica
Magic lanterns and lantern slides from the Minici Zotti Collection
in Padova. In Italian and English.
- Library of Congress
The catalogue of the Library of Congress has recently gone on-line,
and this includes its film holdings. It is still very rare for
any of the larger non-commercial film archives to put the full
range of their holdings on-line, and this is a major searching
tool for early film.
Well-illustrated site devoted to American movie pioneer Siegmund
et le Japon
Accompanying a touring exhibition of films shot in Japan in the
1890s by the Lumière cameramen François-Constant Girel and Gabriel
Veyre, this comprises an excellent essay on the first films and
filmmaking in Japan by Hiroshi Komatsu, including local production
by Katsutaro Inabata, Einosuke Yokota and others, and filmographies.
In French, with redundant colour illustrations.
- The Magic Lantern
A very clear and practical site devoted to the magic lantern,
with some excellent recreations of lantern effects.
Japanese Index of Movies
Text-based site on Japanese silent cinema, including a timeline,
Who's Who and articles on such distinctive features of the Japanese
silents as the benshi interpreter performers.
Reference Sources & Information
Links to various cinema history and general cinema, television
and video resources, with helpful descriptions.
In 1999 London's Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) closed, awaiting
the promised construction of a new museum. Filling the gap, and
making his own subtle protest, Stephen Herbert (producer of The Projection
Box) has devised an unofficial on-line version of the sections
of the Museum that covered pre-cinema and early cinema. Beautifully
illustrated and animated, it is the first place to learn about
magic lanterns, the phantasmagoria, panoramas, zoetropes, phenakistoscopes,
chronophotography and the first twenty years of cinema.
- Motion Picture and
Television Reading Room (Library of Congress)
How to use the reading room of the Library of Congress's Motion
Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, including very
welcome collection guides and finding aids.
- Motion Pictures
Guide to an extensive microfilm edition of catalogues of American
motion picture producers and distributors from 1894-1908. Features
a detailed introduction by Charles Musser, and the contents listing
for each reel, including Maguire & Baucus (Urban's American
employers), Raff and Gammon, Lumière, Lubin, Gaumont, Méliès,
Biograph and many others.
- Moving Pictures
Essay (without illustrations) on the various efforts to synchronise
sound discs with motion pictures in the early cinema period, including
such systems as the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, Chronophone, Cinephone
- National Fairground
Informative site for the University of Sheffield's National Fairground
Archive, written by Vanessa Toulmin, with plenty of details on
fairground operators, especially those such as Randall Williams
and George Green who presented film shows at fairground Bioscopes
(a word taken from Urban's projector) throughout Britain in the
early cinema period.
- National Museum of Photography,
Film & Television
The NMPFT in Bradford is Britain's national museum of photography,
film and television, and has a strong Urban association thanks
to its parent organisation, London's Science Museum, which houses
the Charles Urban collection of papers.
Early science fiction films, with good illustrations, with reference
to such titles as The Airship Destroyer, made by Walter
R. Booth for Urban. In German.
Information on pre-cinema and early cinema issues, in particular
related to the publications of this inventive small publisher.
The site is developing interestingly, with increased use of images
and updated text, including new information on topics covered
by Projection Box titles. Produced by Stephen Herbert, and is
linked to Herbert's brilliant idea of a virtual MOMI (qv),
or Museum of the Moving Image.
- Public Motion
Picture Research Centers and Film Archives
Comprehensive list of links to film archives worldwide, provided
by the Library of Congress.
- The Public Record Office
The PRO is the repository for British official papers, and is
a marvellous source of information on British early cinema, if
you know where to look (primarily the company records in the Board
of Trade files). The PRO catalogue is now on-line, and while to
access the actual documents one must visit Kew, having the catalogue
searchable in this form is an immense boon, and yields up serendipitious
results that one would be unlikely to discover using the indexes
at Kew alone.
Produced by the extraordinarily industrious Herbert Birett, this
features huge amounts of information about films either made or
shown in Germany 1912-1920, plus film trade journals of the time
and mentions of film in non-movie journals. some of it listed,
some of it downloadable files, some of it available from the author.
Some interesting links. In German, with some notes in English.
Regarding the Genesis of Nonfiction Film
A stimulating essay on early non-fiction filmmaking, its essence,
problems of definition, and neglect by film scholars, by Japanese
scholar Komatsu Hiroshi.
- Historic Photographs of Early Bodybuilders
This has more to do with bodybuilding than film, but Eugen Sandow
was a popular figure at the end of the 19th century, who appeared
in a number of the earliest films made, of which some can be viewed
- Science Museum
The Library holds the extensive Charles Urban Collection of Papers
Relating to Early Motion Pictures. Details of the Library's operations
and general holdings are given here.
On-line cinema history journal, with news, reviews and articles,
both original and classic reprints with scholarly introductions.
- ScreenSound Australia
The Australian national archive of moving images and sound, ScreenSound
Australia, has made its database of 360,000 titles available online,
searchable by keyword (use also for dates) and name. The cataloguing
detail is often excellent, and there is much interesting early
material available. The option to call up viewable material only
is very welcome.
Superb site, edited by David Pierce, which reprints original articles
on silent cinema from contemporary film trade journals, as well
as more recent criticism. Sister site to Silent Film Sources.
- Silent Film Sources
- Silent Films Availability in the U.S.
A guide to all sources for silent films in the USA, from video
to 35mm theatrical hire. Sister site to the Silent Film Bookshelf.
An assortment of links to other silent film sites, plus some general
information (and a promised section on colour in silent film to
come). Produced by Glen Pringle.
- The Silents Majority
On-line silent film journal. The first port of call for anyone
interested in silent film on the Net. News, photos, lobby cards,
biographies, articles, plenty of links and excellent presentation.
Well-illustrated essay on the silent Western, with good historical
background for cinema at this time generally.
Wide selection of Quicktime movie clips for silent film comedians,
including Chaplin, Lloyd, Arbuckle, Langdon and Max Linder.
- Streifzüge Durch
die Berliner Film- und Kinogeschichte
The early years of German cinema, as seen through the cinemas
of Berlin (addresses and photographs then and now are given),
covering the German pioneers Max Skladanowsky and Oskar Messter,
as well as the stars and directors of the later German silents.
- Terra Media
A growing site on the history of the media, at the heart of which
is a timeline section entitled Chronomedia,
which aims to document important moments in the history of all
communications media, and which includes technological "firsts"
and innovations in motion pictures in the 1890s to 1900s.
- Thanhouser Company Film
Thanhouser was a middling American film company of the early cinema
period, specialising in theatrical adaptations. General historical
and biographical details, plus information on videos and publications
- Vintage Film
British film collectors page, with information on Pathéscope 9.5mm
and Kodascope, plus assorted sections on edge codes, film deterioration
and the like.
The best source for learning all about the Edison phonograph and
other early systems for recorded sound, with a delightful range
of recordings available on-line.
The first issue of this internet journal has an article by Irvin
Leigh Matus called "Where the Dream was Made" which is a genial
history of the Brooklyn-based Vitagraph Company of America, whose
owners J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith were close business
associates of Urban.
Original URL: http://website.lineone.net/~luke.mckernan/Link.htm