The Archaeology of Cinema #4

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(William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson; 1894)

This paradigmatic Peep-Show device, developed by Dickson for the Thomas Edison Co. in 1894, was the first great American contribution to the mechanics of Motion Picture exhibition. An electrically driven apparatus, designed for use with images produced by Edison's Kinetograph, it allowed its viewers to stand with hands free . . . just as many millions stood decades later in arcades and adult bookstores the world over . . . and behold before their eyes the wonders of the moving image.

So successful was the Kinetoscope in its day that entire venues like Peter Bacigalupi's in San Francisco (pictured above as it was in 1895) made extraordinary amounts of money providing this new form of diversion to a public in its last unsuspecting moments before those very images enslaved their collective subconscious forever.

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