Skip to main content

See also:

On this Day in Movie History, April 21, 1895: the First Moving Picture Projected

On this Day in Movie History, April 21, 1895: the First Moving Picture Projected on a Screen
Pubic Domain

On this day, April 21, 1895, Woodville Latham demonstrated the first use of a moving picture projected on a screen in New York City.

Major Woodville Latham (1837–1911) was an ordnance officer of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and professor of chemistry at West Virginia University. He was significant in the development of early film technology.

Woodville Latham, father of Grey and Otway Latham, owners of a kinetoscope parlor in New York City, in December 1894 formed the Lambda Company, 35 Frankfort Street, NYC, employing both Eugène Lauste, a former Thomas Edison employee, as well as motion picture pioneer William Kennedy Dickson.

The Lambda Company developed both a movie camera and prototype movie projector. The Panoptikon (eventually renamed Eidoloscope), was demonstrated for members of the press on April 21, 1895 and opened to the paying public on May 20. These were the first public demonstrations of projected motion pictures in the United States.

The Panoptikon, perhaps the first widescreen film format, was instrumental in the history of film in that it created what became known as the “Latham loop”. This relieved strain on the filmstrip and enabled the shooting and projection of much longer motion pictures than the one-minute films of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope.

By 1905, virtually all motion picture projectors used the Latham Loop. When Thomas Edison excluded his competitor Biograph from licensing Edison’s key motion picture patents in 1907, Biograph retaliated by purchasing the patent for the Latham Loop. Shortly before his death in 1911, Woodville Latham testified regarding the ‘Latham loop’ at a patent hearing. A federal court upheld the validity of the Latham patent The patent expired in 1913.

Birthdays
1915 – Anthony Quinn (Academy Award-winning actor: Viva Zapata! [1952], Lust for Life [1956]; The Guns of Navarone, The Inheritance, The Old Man and the Sea, Zorba the Greek; died June 3, 2001)

1932 – Elaine May (actress: California Suite; comedienne: half of a comedy duo with Mike Nichols; director: A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid, Ishtar, Mikey and Nicky)

1935 – Charles Grodin (actor: Clifford, Beethoven I & II, Midnight Run, Dave; director, host: The Charles Grodin Show)

1949 – Patti LuPone (actress: Evita, Song Spinner, Driving Miss Daisy, Wise Guys, 1941, Life Goes On)

1951 – Tony Danza (actor: Family Law, Who’s the Boss, Taxi, Angels in the Outfield, Baby Talk; TV talk show host: The Tony Danza Show [co-executive producer])

1958 – Andie (Rosalie Anderson) MacDowell (actress: Multiplicity, Unstrung Heroes, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Short Cuts, Groundhog Day, Green Card, sex lies and videotape, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Player, Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes)