March of 1895, Charles Francis Jenkins, a young government
clerk in Washington entered into an agreement with Thomas
Armat, a fellow student a the Bliss School of Electricity.
Their aim was to develop a motion picture device.
Jenkins had already invented a device for viewing
motion pictures which he called the Phantoscope, a variant
on the Edison Kinetoscope. With this experience the two were
able to work quickly and by 28 May 1895 the two had developed
a projecting version of the Phantoscope and applied for its
That September, the two travelled to Atlanta
with their invention and gave a public demonstration at the
Cotton States Exposition. Although no evidence remains regarding
the quality of their projections or the success of the show,
one can guess that it was well received as shortly after this
event the partnership broke up with each party claiming the
invention to be their own work.
After the split the two worked independently
on improving the Phantoscope. Jenkins had his version of the
projecting Phantoscope ready by the first week in November
1895 making the first public demonstration on December 12
at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
At the same time, Armat, upon perfecting his
version, approached prominent entrepreneurs Raff and Gammon
who were excited by what they saw and approached Edison with
the intention that he develop the machine.
agreed and in February 1896 the Armat projecting Phantoscope
was renamed the Vitascope and was preceded by 'Edisonís' for,
as Raff and Gammon explained, effective publicity and exploitation
of the device.
The first theatrical exhibition took place on
April 23 1896 at Koster and Bialís Music Hall in Herald Square,
New York City. The film that made the greatest impression
on the audience that day was Robert Paul and Birt Acres' 'Rough
Sea at Dover'.