Hoosier Dusty Files - June 06, 1894 - Charles Francis Jenkins Demonstrates First "Motion Picture Projector Box" At Richmond
|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Charles Francis Jenkins projected the first documented public moving picture exhibition in history in a tiny upstairs storeroom. The demonstration took place in his cousin's jewelry store at 726 East Main Street in downtown Richmond, Indiana.
Charles Francis Jenkins (August 22, 1867 - June 6, 1934)
The son of Amasa Jenkins and Mary Ann Jenkins, Charles was a native of Dayton, Ohio. The family moved to Richmond, Indiana while Charles in 1869, while Charles was only two years old. He attended Earlham College and gained employment as a stenographer for the Federal Government in Washington D. C. in 1886. During his boyhood, Charles showed a penchant for tinkering. He worked on farm equipment as a boy and invented a wagon jack.
Inventing the Motion Picture Projector Box
Thomas Edison had already demonstrated his motion picture machine, called the Kinetoscope, in 1891. Edison's machine ran a continuous loop of film with successive images, producing a blurred scene. Jenkins' Phantoscope differed by pausing each image about a tenth of a second. This allowed the observer to see it as a distinct image, with successive images producing an illusion of movement. Jenkins began working on his machine around 1890.
Jenkins finished working on his machine in late winter of 1894 in Washington. He sent the machine to his parents in Richmond with a letter saying he was going to return home to show them something. He rode his bicycle the 700 miles from Washington to Richmond. Upon arrival, he invited his parents, family, friends and a reporter to view his demonstration. Since there was no electricity in the room to run his machine, Jenkins attracted a wire to a nearby trolley line and ran it into the room, using a bucket of water to reduce the voltage. He hung a bed sheet on the opposite wall from the machine. His mystified visitors entered the room to watch a movie he had created using a young vaudeville star named Annabelle to demonstrate a butterfly dance. The Richmond Palladium reviewed the demonstration in 1916, concluding that not only was it the first public exhibition of a moving picture, since Jenkins had hand colored each frame, it was also the first color movie.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning