February 1, 2015

February 1, 1893: First Motion Picture Studio Built by Edison

Photograph of the Black Maria, taken in the 1890's.

It was a tiny tar-paper shack, but it was the first movie studio in America. Edison had erectedit on the grounds of his laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, and was ready for business. The building had a large window in the ceiling, and was built on a turntable, so that the studio could be moved to capture the light -- in those days it took an awful lot of light to make a movie.

The studio was so cramped, in fact, that Edison's employees began calling it the "Black Maria", after the slang term for those black police vans that are sometimes known as "paddywagons." Edison himself called it "The Doghouse."

Early movies were very, very short, of course, but entertainers came from all over the country for a chance to be in a moving picture. Edison filmed vaudeville performers, boxers, dancers, and even Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

The film shown below is Edison's "The Sneeze." It was one of the first films made, and was the earliest film every copyrighted. Pictured: Photograph of Edison's Black Maria film studio, taken in the 1890's.

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