L'American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (1895-)

Les antécédents (1883-1895)

Les quatre figures du "KMCD Syndicate" - ont eu des parcours qui les ont conduits à nouer des liens au cours des années 1880-1890. L'électricien Harry Marvin est employé, entre 1883 et 1885, à l'Edison Electric Light Co. (New York), entreprise qui se consacre à la fabrication des lampes à incandescence. De son côté, W. K. L. Dickson est l'un des plus proches collaborateurs de Thomas A. Edison auprès duquel il travaille depuis 1883. En 1893, Marvin s'associe avec Herman Casler, alors machiniste de l'Edison General Electric Company à Schenectady (New York), et fonde la Marvin & Casler Company à Canastota (New York) qui se consacre à la fabrication de diverses machines.

schenectady works
General Electric Company, Schenectady Works
 Schenectady Electrical Handbook, Schenectady Electric Press, 1904, p. 9-12.

Harry Marvin dépose également un brevet pour un "electric reciprocating tool" (23 janvier 1890). En outre, Dickson et Herman Casler déposent, en novembre 1893, un brevet pour un appareil photographique, le Photoret qui va être commercialisé par Elias KoopmanDickson évoque ainsi l'origine de la société The American Mutoscope Company :

In conclusion, when I left Mr. Edison's laboratory in 1895, having accomplished the problems assigned to me, I joined my friends Messrs. H. N. Marvin, E. B. Koopman, and Herman Casler*} to carry out a new method of reproducing motion by means of a pack of cards, which I had devised shortly after I had left Mr. Edison. This device we called the "Mutoscope." The cards were viewed both as a peep show and as booklets given out by manufacturers for publicity purposes. A syndicate was immediately formed, and our master mechanician, Mr. Herman Casler, worked out his famous "punch as you go" {** The Biographic camera had an intermittent movement consisting of a double mutilated, rubber-covered roller. When portions of the roller having the thicker radii came together on revolving, the film was moved forward.}taking camera.** When it was ready, I managed to secure some very stirring pictures.

DICKSON, 1933: 454.

L'American Mutoscope Company (1895-1899)

American Mutoscope and Biograph Founders 1895
Henry N. Marvin, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, Herman Casler et Elias Bernard Koopman
22 septembre 1896 [D.P.]

Des quatre fondateurs - Herman Casler, William K. L. DicksonHarry Marvin et Elias Koopman -, c'est ce dernier, directeur de la Magic Introduction Company, qui apporte le financement nécessaire à la création de la nouvelle société dénommée "The American Mutoscope Company. Elle voit le jour, à Jersey City (New Jersey), le 27 décembre 1895 et dispose d'un capital de $2 millions :

The Manufacture and sale of photographic, mutographic and mutoscopic implements and appliances, implements and apparatus in any manner connected therewith, or for projecting the same, and the using the same for exhibition or other purposes, and the selling or leasing or otherwise disposing the same, or the right to use the same.

HENDRICKS, 1964: 30.

The New York Times complète l'information :

Jersey City.
-The American Mutoscope Company yesterday filed articles of incorporation in the Hudson County Clerk's office, at Jersey City. The capital stock is 2,000,000, in 20,000 shares, and is all paid in. The incorporators are George H. Lawman of Greenwich, Conn.; William C. Smith of Brooklyn, and James Fielder of Jersey City.

The New York Times, mercredi 1er janvier 1896, p. 8.

Afin de consolider la nouvelle société, les collaborateurs cèdent les droits (13 janvier 1896) de certaines de leurs inventions : le "Mutoscope" et le "Hand-held Mutoscope" (Casler), les "improvements of Mutoscope" (Marvin). Le brevet de la "Kinetographic Camera" est déposé le 26 février 1896,  même si son enregistrement ne sera effectif que trois ans plus tard (US629,063. 18/07/1899). L'invention est connue sous les noms de "Mutograph", "Mutagraph" ou "Biograph",  mais cette dernière appellation finit par s'imposer.

 1897 roof stage biograph
"nº 6. Movable stage for photographing scenes with the "Mutograph"
"The Art of moving photography", Scientific American, vol. LXXVI, nº 16, 17 avril 1897, p. 249.

Upon the roof of the New York establishment of the company there has been erected a large movable stage for taking photographs of celebrated scenes from plays or of individual performances in which it is desired to reproduce the motions as well as the features of the subject. The details of the structure can be clearly made out in engraving No. 6. It consists of a floor of steel I beams which carries a series of three concentric steel tracks. Upon this rotates a massive frame, at one end of which is a stage supplied with the necessary scenery, and at the other end a corrugated iron house ill which is located the mutograph. The stage is bolted to the frame, but the house travels upon a track and may be moved to or from the stage as required. The frame carrying the stage and house rotates about the smaller circular track located beneath the house, and may be swung around so as to throw the light full upon the stage at any hour of the day.

Scientific American, vol 76, n º 16, 17 avril 1897, p. 250.

biograph 841 broadway
Studio de la Biograph (841 Broadway).
reproduit dans SPEHR, 2008: 411.

C'est probablement peu après qu'est construite la nouvelle usine "Marvin & Casler" où doivent être sont fabriqués les mutoscopes et les biographs. L'agrandissement des locaux de l'usine, au début de l'année 1897, dénotent l'importance prise par la production des appareils :

Canastota, Jan. 13.-An addition is being built on the Marvin and Casler's works on Robert-st.

The Syracuse Daily Journal, mercredi 13 janvier 1897, p. 3.


1897 04 17 mutoscope scientific american v76 n16 1897 04 17
Scientific American, vol. LXXVI, nº 16, New York, 17 avril 1897, p. 241.


HENDRICKS Gordon, Beginnings of the Biograph, New York, The Beginnings of the American Film, 1964, 78 p.

"Memorandum of Agreement. American Mutoscope Co and Herman Casler et als.", 12 mars 1898, Property of Motion Picture Patents Company, copy number 7, p. 3-7.

"The Art of moving photography", Scientific American, vol. LXXVI, nº 16, 17 avril 1897, p. 248-250.

SPEHR Paul, The Man Who Made Movies: W. K. L. Dickson, Rawang, John Libbey Publishing Ltd, 2008, 706 p.

L'American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (1899-1909)

Biograph Company (1909-)


La Biograph and Mutoscope Company (France)

Voir Eugène Lauste.

L'Italian Mutoscope and Biograph Company Limited (1899-)

Italian Mutoscope and Biograph Company, Limited (62,452).—This company was registered on June 13th, with a capital of £40,000 in £1 shares, to manufacture and deal in mutoscopes, biographs, and mutographs in the kingdom of Italy, and to carry on the business of mechanical and electrical engineers, &c. The first subscribers (each with one share) are;—T. MacDonnell, 2, New Court, Lincoln’s Inn, barrister; A. J. George, 33—37, Hatton Wall, E.C., manufacturer; W. T. Smedley, 119, Ashley Gardens, Westminster, chartered accountant; E. B. Koopman, Hotel Cecil, W.C,, managing director; J. H. Brigham, Hotel Cecil, W.C., managing director; W. Bartram, 18, Great Windmill Street, London, clerk; and E. Shouls, 42, Balfern Grove, Chiswick, clerk. The first directors, to number not less than two nor more than seven, are to be nominated by the subscribers; remuneration, £120 each per annum.

The Electrical Review, vol. 44, nº 1127, 30 juin 1899, p. 1077.