Celebrating the History of Motion Pictures from 1890 to 1960

1909 Timelines: 1900 to 1909

The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) is formed and becomes a holding company for all of the patents belonging to the film producers who are members. (It is also known as the “Edison Trust”.) Members of this Trust, which include all of the major film producers of the time including Pathè, Edison and Biograph, agree to share their various machine and film patents, and to keep all other parties and machines out of the film business. They enforce this by agreeing not to sell or lease to any exchange that buys a film from any non-MPPC company. Therefore, any exchange that wishes to handle any MPPC film cannot handle any other company’s films. In addition, George Eastman’s company, which produces over 80% of the film stock used for commercial films, agrees to sell perforated raw film stock to only MPPC members.


Exchange members of the FSA are forced to sign a new license agreement with the MPPC, or lose access to the films produced by the members of the MPPC.


Every theater showing films is required to pay $2 a week to the MPPC for a license.


The MPPC agrees to submit its films to The Board of Censorship (later called the National Board of Censorship) that has been established by the distinguished People’s Institute of New York City. The MPPC hopes that this self-censorship will set film content standards for state and local censorship actions, and will curb their inconsistencies. In 1915 this board will become The National Board of Review.


The “Trust War” begins when the owners of two exchanges, William Swanson of Chicago and Carl Laemmle of New York, decide to “go independent”, breaking with the MPPC. To obtain films Laemmle, along with William Fox who also owns an exchange and is a theater owner, become film producers buying their film stock from English and French companies. Laemmle’s company, the Independent Motion Picture Company (IMP), will eventually become Universal Pictures, and William Fox’s company will become 20th Century Fox. By the end of the year, 39 “independent” exchanges will join forces and form “The National Independent Moving Picture Alliance”.


Some independent film-makers begin filming in California to more easily evade the MPPC, which is headquartered in New York.


Mary Pickford begins to work as an actress for D.W. Griffith at Biograph.


Significant Films:

Biograph’s, “Her First Biscuits”, is Mary Pickford’s first film.

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