Celebrating the History of Motion Pictures from 1890 to 1960


History of Motion Pictures
1910 – 1919

A Brief Overview of the Decade

This was a decade of rebellion, revolution and war. Radical changes seemed to be taking place everywhere, and when Halley’s Comet returned in 1910 many people thought the end of the world was at hand. By the time the Treaty of Versailles officially ended World War I on June 28, 1919, for many people the world had indeed come to an end. During the years between these two events, the Ottoman Empire had crumbled; the Titanic had sunk; Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated; World War I had introduced the world to “trench warfare”, “fighter planes”, “aerial dogfights”, “U-boats”, and “poison gas”; the Russian Revolution had dethroned the Czar; Irish nationalists had declared Irish independence from Great Britain; Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa had lead a revolution in Mexico; a virulent strain of influenza had swept the world affecting nearly half of the world’s population; and race riots and violent union strikes had touched many U.S. communities both large and small.

Meanwhile, in 1913 Henry Ford organized his first assembly line, a concept that would fundamentally affect the lives of much of the workforce; and as the decade ended Congress passed the 18th Amendment that prohibited the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors”, a law that would affect the lives of most U.S. citizens for the next 13 years. Throughout it all, however, the American public still had time to buy over a million copies of Irving Berlin’s song, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, and swing to the first jazz recordings. They also had time to dance the Fox-trot, solve the clever crossword puzzles that had just been introduced in the New York “World” Sunday paper, and enjoy the shorter eight-hour workday that had been signed into law. And despite everything, during this decade as many as 26 million people a week found escape in the now familiar Nickelodeons and movie theaters.


The Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), referred to as the “Edison Trust”, which only allows its own members access to cameras and projectors that use its patents, sets up its own film exchange. This distribution company, The General Film Company, attempts to counter the flood of films being produced by…

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The Vitagraph Company of America opens a film studio in California.   Although more and more films that are longer than just one reel are being produced, the exchanges find that it is awkward to handle and rent them. Exchanges usually rent these multi-reel films one reel at a time,…

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The patent for the “Latham Loop” is overthrown by the courts.   French multi-reel, feature-length films achieve great popularity and critical acclaim in the U.S. They help to establish the multi-reel “feature” film as a story that should be screened in its entirety during a single program.   The French…

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Jesse L. Lasky, Samuel Goldfish, Cecil B. DeMille, and Arthur Friend form the “Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company”. Their first film, “The Squaw Man”, is directed by Cecil B. DeMille and shot in and around Los Angeles, California.   To compete with the foreign multi-reel, “feature” films, the American…

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Bringing together a number of independent production companies, including Adolph Zukor’s “Famous Players”, W.W. Hodgkinson founds a nationwide distribution network named “Paramount Pictures”. Throwing out the old system where the production company rented its films directly to regional exchanges, Paramount pays member companies an advance of $30,000 for each picture,…

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Harry Aitken, former head of the Mutual Film Corporation, and D.W. Griffith form the “Epoch Producing Corporation”.   The Bell & Howell 2709 camera, that was introduced in 1911, starts to be widely used. It is the first high-precision, all-metal 35mm motion picture camera. It has a frame-counter that makes…

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Charlie Chaplin signs a year-long contract with the Mutual Film Corporation. He is to receive $10,000 per week plus a $150,000 signing bonus.   The “Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company”, and “The Famous Players Film Corporation” merge to become “Famous Players-Lasky Corporation”. Adolph Zukor becomes the president.   Samuel…

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Backed financially by Artcraft Pictures, which is owned by Paramount Pictures, Douglas Fairbanks forms the “Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation”. He will be paid $10,000 per week plus a percentage of the company profits.   Paramount Pictures, under Adolph Zukor, begins to require “block booking” of its films. This procedure forces…

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Charlie Chaplin opens his own studios to produce films for First National.   Mary Pickford forms her own film production company to make films for First National. First National will pay her an advance of $150,000, and then $250,000 for each of three films.   The Pathè company in France…

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In Hollywood fifteen cameramen found “The American Society of Cinematographers”.   Feeling that distributors are taking too much of their money, D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks join forces and form their own distributing company called “United Artists Corporation”. Each will produce their own films that will…

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