(Kirkcaldy, 1855-Richmond upon Thames, 1933)

williamson james 

Jean-Claude SEGUIN


[Williamson] et Janet Williamson (Saint Cuthberts, 28/03/1833-Lewisham, 28/02/1929). Descendance :

  • James Williamson (Kirkcaldy, 08/11/1855-Richmond upon Thames, 18/08/1933) épouse (Holy Trinity-Forest Row, 09/08/1881) Betsey Heasyman. (Sussex, 21/11/1855-Hendon, 03/02/1936). Descendance:
    • Janet Melville Williamson (1882-1961)
    • Florence Williamson (1884-1965)
    • Alan James Williamson (1886-)
    • Collin M. Williamson (Hove, 29/10/1887-)
    • Lilian Williamson (1890-)
    • Thomas Heaysman Williamson (1892-)
    • Stuart Williamson (1894-)
  • John Williamson (1858-)
  • William Williamson (1860-)


James Williamson.

williamson james 01
James Williamson [D.R.]

 willasom james 1881 mariage
Mariage de James Williamson et de Betsey Heasyman (1881) [D.R.]

At the advanced age of 79 years, James Williamson, a pioneer figure in British kinematography, passed away suddenly on Friday of last week.
A vigorous figure for his years, Mr. Williamson, who appeared to enjoy very good health, was found dead in his bath at his Richmond home.
He entered kinematography in its very early days by way of his practical training as a chemist and produced films at Brighton. Subsequently, he transferred his activities to the printing of films and founded the Williamson Film Printing Co., with an extensive factory at Barnet.
With his sale of the factory his direct connection with the Trade ceased, but he still retained his Interest in the Industry, to which he had devoted so many years of his life.
His funeral was fixed for Wednesday at Golders Green Cemetery.
His sons, Tom and Colin Williamson, are still widely known in the Trade.

Kinematograph Weekly, Londres, jeudi 24 août 1933, p. 5.


An interesting Reminiscence.
Messrs. John Wrench and Son write us: "May we draw your attention to an error on page 1237 of your International issue, which may lead to come misapprehension. In the article by Mr. James Williamson, he states that he procured a "Wrench machine, which he subsequently converted into a kinematograph camera, and with it took a procession on Jubilee Day, 1907. This should, of course, read 1897, for it was on October 12th, 1896, that we supplied Mr. Williamson with the machine in question. Mr. Williamson also states that if a Kinematograph Museum is established, this old machine will be one of the curiosities. Be this as it may, you will no doubt be interested to learn that many of these machines are still doing yeoman service. Oft-times, when they are returned to have some worn out part replaced, we suggest to the exhibitors that they should speculate in a more up-to-date machine, but they very often reply that their first love has been well tried and not found wanting."The Kinematograph & Lantern Weekly, vol. 6, nº 131, 11 novembre 1909, p. 19.

Way Back in Eighteen Ninety-Six
By JAMES WILLIAMSON, of the Williamson Kinematograph Co. Ltd.
YOU ask me to relate some of my early experiences in the kinema business for a section of the KINEMATOGRAPH WEEKLY, in which you propose celebrating the 21st. Anniversary of the kinema as a form of public entertainment That takes us back to 1896. I hope you will find someone who can give you some particulars of a public entertainment of living pictures at an earlier date than that. One would understand by that, an entertainment where living pictures were announced as part or the whole of the performance, and money taken for admission. And further, that the pictures were projected on a screen. I shall be surprised if you find it earlier than that.
I arrived in 1896. and certainly by that time a sufficient number of good pictures were obtainable. I bought a projector and six films to keep my annual local lantern exhibition up-to-date. I was in the "Advice Gratis" business, chemist and photographic dealer in Hoye. Mv clients were so accustomed to getting copious advice with each bottle of medicine, that I had also to give a lecture on photography with each bottle of developer. So that when I started showing films I had to be able to tell them how it was done. Physic and photography occupied a good many hours out of the twenty-four, without providing sufficient spare cash or leisure to spend in study and experiments. So I did the best I could with limited means, and stole the hours from the night.
In the following year, with home-made apparatus. I did succeed in making films, and I found out enough about it to be able to give a lecture upon the whole subject to the Hove Camera Club. After that I dropped first physic and then photographic dealing, and became one of the crowd of kinematographers. I am usually spoken of as on of the pioneers of the industry. Well, I do not mind that : I suppose I have helped to push it along, and I am one of the pushers of 1896, still pushing. But I would like to see some recognition of those men who were making pictures at the time I was only a buyer. On looking over an old account book. I see that in 1896 I bought films from Paul, Esme Collings, Fuerst Bros. (Lumiere) and Maguire and Baucus (Edison Kinetoscope Loops). Messrs. Butcher and Sons, Levi and Co., and Watson and Son, were also selling films, but I do not know the makers. In 1897 I also bought film from G. A. Smith, so that quite a few men had already made marketable films while I was still struggling with my home-made contrivances. What would interest me, and I am sure also, your readers, would be a list of men, who, in those early day, made and exhibited, or made and sold, films of the Edison size and perforation. To my mind it is useless going further than this. Heaven forbid that anyone in these days should be called upon to adjudicate upon the claims of earlier inventors.
The standard film we are using to-day with pictures one inch by three quarter inch, and perforated on each side, sixty four holes to the foot, arrived with the Edison Kinetoscope in 1894. Cameras for taking the pictures, and machines for projecting them on the screen, we were certainly not indebted to Edison for. The idea of projecting moving pictures upon the screen was well developed buy different experimenters working independently. If anyone gave a demonstration, it was usually without fully disclosing his methods, so that directly a commercial article, like the Loops for Edison's Kinetoscopes, was obtainable, those people who had the projecting idea in their minds took this film to an engineer, and got him to devise a machine to attach to a magic lantern. It was just a step further to enclose this machine in a box and make a camera of it. That is how the Edison invention for seeing living pictures by one person at a time, became the standard size picture for carrying out the British and French inventors' ideas of showing these pictures to a multitude at a time. The Lumiere idea of using one round hole on each side of the picture was much more sensible, but the Edison gauge had got away by that time, and could not be overtaken.
When, after laborious nights and days, I did succeed in making films, very simple subjects served my ends. The backyard furnished the scenery, and the family provided the players. Simple domestic comedies formed the staple of my ideas. " Naughty Boys," "Washing the Sweep," "Winning the Gloves," "Sports and Pastimes," " Country Life Scenes," " Children's Dancing," etc., besides topical subjects. Seventy-five feet was the limit of length. It was two years or more later before anyone would buy a longer subject. New projectors with feed sprockets were introduced, and the spools gradually increased in size until a limit was put by the Cinematograph Act. My customers in those early days were chiefly men like myself in provincial towns, who were supplying local shows—Walker of Aberdeen, Feathers of Dundee, Rae Bros. of Glasgow, Lizars of Edinburgh, Mayne of Belfast, Mason of Dublin, Blake of Bedford, etc. Mr. W. Jury was also one of my early customers, but many of my films were sold through Messrs. Levi Jones and Co., Butcher and Sons, and Wrench and Son. Later Gaumonts and Urban acted as my London agents till I took an office in Cecil Court. There was another firm, now long since out of the business—Philip Wolff—who was quite a large customer for export.
So far I have only referred to the earliest days, as no doubt you have plenty of contributors capable of dealing with later times. I never had much to do with public exhibitions. My exhibiting experiences were chiefly Sunday School treats, Institutions, At Homes-one was very much at home, being in the bedroom of a very old lady, whose son was anxious that she should see this marvel before she died. These reminiscences are apt to be interminable, and if I continue to later times it might begin to assume the form of a veiled advertisement.
There is one thing you might give me a free advertisement about. I did not take the Submarine pictures. This is the latest, " Will you send your submarine to Tobermory Bay to photograph a sunken galleon of the Spanish Armada." Help !—JAS. WILLIAMSON.

Kinetmatograph Weekly, Thursday 01 march 1917, p. 15-16.

When Every Producer Was an Inventor
Who Made at Brighton, with an Apparatus Chiefly Evolved by Himself, Some of the First British Films Ever Produced
I AM interested to know that our friend the Kinematograph Weekly has reached its 1,000th number. I have known the paper since its birth and before that in its chrysalis stage, the Magic Lantern Journal. I am very glad in my retirement to make its acquaintance again, and I am pleased to note its gorgeous development. I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I express my deep regret at the preponderance of advertisements of American films.
As one of the first of the old British producers to retire from that branch of the business in the face of the American invasion, I feel rather like a deserter, and have all the more sympathy with those brave souls who stood up to it so perseveringly, and in some cases I fear so disastrously.
I had succeeded in making films guarded the process and the apparatus with the greatest secrecy. The men who started making films at this period had to work out their own methods.
Besides the early producers, there is a fairly long list of early experimenters, who, although they did not reach the producing stage, are entitled to be recorded on a Roll of Honour of their own. A man who, from his inner consciousness evolves an idea, or has a sudden inspiration about a manner of doing something in an entirely novel way, is bound to carry his idea to at least a primitive stage of practical application before he can claim a patent or call himself an inventor.
A demonstration of the feeblest kind often satisfied such people. The real working out of the invention to the producing stage was left to expert engineers—and photographers in the case of the kinematograph.
The man who got there first was the engineer. It was easier for him to learn the photographic part, than for the photographer to make his own apparatus, or to instruct anyone else to do so. The skilled mechanic was in constant demand all over the country by those who were exhibiting films anti were anxious to make their own.
The Evolution of the Film
It will be interesting at this stage to take stock of the different ways in which the film exploited in 1896. First, it was exhibited as a new photographic marvel at pantomimes, and afterwards as a regular turn at music halls. Then the cheap showman took it up and it was shown at fairs, and in empty shops.
The first real uplift came from the photographic dealers. All over the country they began making inquiries about film and projectors, and many equipped themselves during the winter of 1896-7 to supplement the Sunday school lantern entertainments which had been for many years a regular feature of the dealers' business.
These school exhibitors were regular customers for films each autumn, until the passing of the Cinematograph Act. This will account for the early film productions following on the lines of the sets of comic slides so dear to the children of those days.
How many can remember giving an exhibition in the middle of a hall full of children, three or four hundred perhaps, and the operator and projector accommodated in a space of 6 ft. to 8 ft., railed off with chairs, and limelight available?
I am one of many who do remember such shows. The continuous roars of excited applause still ring in my ears. It was risky, and some regulations were undoubtedly necessary, but the Cinematograph Act put a complete stop to them.
The production of these made-up films. as distinct from the taking of scenic or topical subjects, presented difficulties of their own in addition to the methods of developing and printing which had to be devised. But this is the beginning of another chapter, and will outrun the limits of a casual contribution to a Special Number. It must, therefore, be left for another occasion.

Kinematograph Weekly, Londres, jeudi 17 juin 1926, p. 59.