ki-ne-to-scope pronounced “ki-nee-tuh-skohp.”
Greek roots: kineto ("movement") and scopos ("to view")

Edison filed patent with the U.S. Patent Office in October of 1888 claiming he was going to create an object that would do “for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear.”

1889-1892: With Thomas Edison descriptions and directions, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson invented the kinetoscope using the Persistence of Vision phenomenon (Illusion of continuous motion, its used in motion pictures via frames per second). This exhibition device had its debut 1894 in New York City and is the precursor of the modern motion picture. An endless loop of film of sequential images passes over a light source rapidly behind a peephole for viewing by a single viewer. “The film ran on rollers inside a cabinet; one person at a time viewed the result through a lens at the top, with the sound from the phonograph piped to his ears through a sort of stethoscope.” (World Wide Words) Note that initially the use of kinetoscopes were not accompanied with sound.

Of course it is likely every invention has an initial failure or problem to over come. ”Most of those early kinetoscope films disintegrated or burned because of the film's nitrate (acidic) base. But luckily, he had made paper copies of the film's individual frames, called "contact prints."" (Americas Library)

Edison chose not to patent it internationally, which quickly led to new improvements and inventions like adding a cylinder phonograph to the kinetoscope. Although the kinetoscope didn’t lead to the first (see also) filming/recording, the kinetograph was capable of using the kinetoscope film or celluloid film.

”On April 14, 1894, a public Kinetoscope parlor was opened by the Holland Bros. in New York City at 1155 Broadway, on the corner of 27th Street—the first commercial motion picture house. The venue had ten machines, set up in parallel rows of five, each showing a different movie. For 25 cents a viewer could see all the films in either row; half a dollar gave access to the entire bill.” “Twenty-five cents for no more than a few minutes of entertainment was hardly cheap diversion. For the same amount, one could purchase a mid-priced ticket to a major vaudeville theater; when America's first amusement park opened in Coney Island the following year, a 25-cent entrance fee covered admission to three rides, a performing sea lion show, and a dance hall.” (Wikipedia)

Kinetoscope use declined after the first booming year by 95 percent to the emergence of the cheaper flip-book based Mutoscope. I also wonder if the mass went back to magic lanterns.

    Edison Motion Picture Equipment Chronology
  • Kinetoscope - 1894
  • Kinetophone - 1895
  • Vitascope - 1896
  • Projectoscope - 1897
  • Projecting Kinetoscope - ca.1901
  • Universal Projecting Kinetoscope - 1904
  • Exhibition Projecting Kinetoscope - 1904
  • Improved Exhibition Model - 1910
  • Underwriters Model, Type "B" - 1912
  • Home Projecting Kinetoscope - ca 1911
  • Kinetophone - 1913
  • Super Kinetoscope - 1916
  • Source

One of the first motion pictures shown on the kinetoscope was “Fred Ott's Sneeze.” It is an interesting fact of why films were so short in the early stages of kinetoscopes. Edison believed most people wouldn’t desire watching motion pictures for more than ten minutes due to the "Flickers".


Ki*ne"to*scope (?), n.

A machine, for the production of animated pictures, in which a film carrying successive instantaneous views of a moving scene travels uniformly through the field of a magnifying glass. The observer sees each picture, momentarily, through a slit in a revolving disk, and these glimpses, blended by persistence of vision, give the impression of continuous motion.


© Webster 1913.

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