Robert William PAUL

(Islington, 1869-Londres, 1943)


Jean-Claude SEGUIN 


George Butter Paul (Windthorpe, [1844]-) épouse Elizabeth Jane Lyon (Boulogne-sur-Mer, 27/08/1843-). Descendance:

  • Robert William Paul (Islington, 03/10/1869, bapt. 07/11/1869-Londres, 28/03/1943) épouse (07-09/1897) Ellen Daws (Londres, 1865-Londres,1950). Descendance:
    • Robert Newton Paul (Londres, 01/1898-Londres, 1898)
    • George Rollason Paul (Friern Barnet, 17/07/1903-Londres, 1903)
    • Paul (Friern Barnet, 1910-1910).
  • Arthur Lyon Paul (West Ham, [1873]-) épouse (Londres, 02/05/1908) Beatrice Ivens (Espagne, 1885-).
  • Lily Paul (Newcastle, 1875-)
  • Elizabeth J. Paul (Newcastle, 1875-)
  • George Herbert Paul (Statford, 1877-)
  • Alice M. Paul (Hackney, 1880-)


recensement 1871

recensement 1881

recensement 1891

Le kinetoscope (1894)

Le kinetoscope de Thomas A. Edison arrive en Grande-Bretagne vers le milieu de l'année 1894 grâce aux collaborateurs du génie de Menlo Park Maguire et Baucus. En outre, les Grecs Georgiades et Tragidis -qui ont acheté des exemplaires aux États-Unis- exploitent pour leur propre compte des appareils à Londres et à Paris. Il y aura aussi de nombreuses contrefaçons dont celles des frères Werner.

Contacté par les deux Grecs, Robert W. Paul apprend étonné qu'Edison n'a pas breveté, pour l'Europe, son kinetoscope :

My first contact with animated photography occurred by chance in connection with the business of manufacturing electrical and other scientific instruments which I had started in Hatton Garden in 1891. In 1894 I was introduced by my friend, H. W. Short, to two Greeks who had installed in a shop in Old Broad Street, E.C., six kinetoscopes, bought from Edison's agents in New York. At a charge of twopence per person per picture one looked through a lens at a continuously running film and saw an animated photograph lasting about half a minute. Boxing Cats, A Barber's Shop, A Shoeblack at Work were among the subjects, and the public interest was such that additional machines were urgently needed.Finding that no steps had been taken to patent the machine I was able to construct six before the end of that year. To supply the demand from travelling showmen and others, I made about sixty kinetoscopes in 1895, and in conjunction with business friends installed fifteen at the Exhibition at Earl 's Court, London, showing some of the first of our British films, including the Boat Race and Derby of 1895.

Proceedings of the British Kinematograph Society, nº 38, 3 février 1936, p. 2.

Finalement, pour son propre compte, Paul va produire quelques kinetoscopes contrefaits. Quelques mois plus tard, en collaboration avec Birt Acres, il met au point un appareil de prises de vues et va tourner ce qui est sans doute son premier film Incident Outside Clovelly Cottage. Cela se passe probablement en février ou mars 1895. En 1936, Paul évoque brièvement la vue :

I am able to show a bit of kinetoscope film taken during a trial of our first camera in February, 1895.

PAUL, 1936

Pour sa part Birt Acres, dans les notes marginales et manuscrites de son exemplaire de Moving Pictures de Frederick A. Talbot, ajoute:

This reproduction of a Kinetoscope film was taken by Birt Acres and is a view of the front entrance of his home, Clovelly Cottage. The figure in white is his paid assistant Henry W. Short, and was taken at the rate of 40 pictures per second, 2400 per min.

ajouté à Frederick A. Talbot, Living Pictures. Conservé au BFI.

En effet, ce premier essai réussi conduit Robert W. Paul à écrire à Thomas A. Edison pour lui proposer ses services. Et pour montrer qu'il est capable de tourner des vues avec son appareil, il joint au courrier quelques photogrammes:

paul robert 1895 03 29 edison paul robert 1895 03 29 edison 02
Robert W. Paul, À Thomas A. Edison, Londres, 29 mars 1895
(Reproduit dans BARNES, 1998: 23)

Dear Sir,
I have taken some interest in you Kinetoscope here, and have found that a demand existed for a greater variety of subjects that at present available. I have therefore commenced to manufacture films representing recent scenes and events here, and shall be pleased to hear from you if you think that our mutual interests would be served by an exchange of films.
I enclose for your inspection the f a small piece of the first film which I have made, thinking it might interest you although I expect to attain even better results with a little practice.
In case you decide to entertain this proposal I shall be pleased to co-operate with you in stopping sundry attempts now being made here to copy your films- which, I take it, is an offence against the international Copyright Act.
I am, Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
Robt. W. Paul.

Robert W. Paul, À Thomas A. Edison, Londres, 29 mars 1895
(Reproduit dans BARNES, 1998: 23).

À cette proposition de collaboration, Edison va répondre -le 16 avril- par la négative:

[I] have examined the sample of film you sent me... The original subjects, from which strips are made here, are taken for account of other parties, who bear all expenses in connection therewith.. I am not therefore in a position to make any such arrangement direct...
Thomas A. Edison, À Robert W. Paul, 16 avril 1895.
(Reproduit dans HENDRICKS, 1966: 133-134).

De ce film, il ne reste que quelques fragments.

La polémique Paul-Acres (mars-avril 1896)

C'est en mars 1896 qu'une polémique s'engage entre Robert W. Paul et Birt Acres qui a pour objet l'antériorité des travaux sur l'image animée. Le premier article de Birt Acres rappelle qu'il a projeté des images animées dès le 14 janvier 1896, même s'il reconnaît que les frères Lumière en ont présenté avant lui à Londres :  

To the Editors.
GENTLEMEN, — Referring to Mr. G. R. Baker's notes on the projection of moving objects on the screen, I am quite willing to admit that to Messrs. Lumiere belongs the credit of being the first in England to show the outside public such figures ; but, at the same time, I think it is only fair to myself to point out that I successfully showed such pictures at the Royal Photographic Society on January 14, which antedates Lumiere considerably. I think it only fair to point out that I was the first in Europe to successfully take photographs suitable for either the kinetoscope or the kinetic lantern (many of my earlier successful photographs, not being historical subjects, of course, bear no indisputable date) ; but it is well known that I successfully photographed the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race last spring, also the Derby, in which is shown clearing the course, the race, and the rush across the course after the race; further, I took a series of photographs at the opening of the Kiel Canal in June last year. The photographs also of the Boxing Kangaroo, Tom Merry, lightning cartoonist, dancing girls, bears, &c., as well as the magnificent wave picture at Dover, are also mine.
I have gone into this matter at some length, as it came to my knowledge that a certain individual had advertised himself as sole manufacturer of these films, whereas he had no more to do with the taking or making of these films than you, Mr. Editor, have had. Now that projection lanterns are springing up like mushrooms all around, I think that it will be useful to know that Mr. Friese Green holds what is really a master patent ; and, as he has arranged with a syndicate to run his apparatus, I should not be at all surprised if he asserts his patent rights. I am informed that his claim is a good one, and so thoroughly am I convinced of his rights that I have already entered into an agreement with him, by which I have secured the right of working under his patent. I confess that I was entirely in ignorance of Mr. Friese Green's work when I designed my apparatus, and, as a matter of fact, the principle on which I work is mechanically different to his, but his claim to passing a series of pictures on an endless band intermittently is original with him, and I have very little doubt but that he will be able to uphold his claim.
It may seem a contradiction for me to claim that I was the first to successfully solve the difficulty in Europe in the face of what I have just written, but it is a fact that with my apparatus I am able to take pictures at almost any speed (I have gone as high as 100 per second) accurately spaced, which is the crux on which nearly every one has failed. Mr. Friese Green's pictures were, I believe, accurately spaced, but he did not contemplate such great rapidity as the kinetoscope involved. Apologising for trespassing on your valuable space,—I am, yours, &c.
March 7, 1896. Birt Acres.

The British Journal of Photography, Londres, 13 mars 1896, p. 173-174

En réalité, ce que revendique Birt Acres, c'est d'avoir été le premier européen à avoir réalisé des films pour le kinétoscope, films qu'il a tournés tout au long de l'année 1895. Robert W. Paul ne tarde pas à lui répondre afin de rappeler quelle a été la chronologie des événements. Il évoque son collaborateur Mr S[hort] et décrit les différentes étapes des années 1894 et 1895. S'il me remet pas en cause le travail de cinématographiste de Birt Acres, Paul précise qu'il est bien le constructeur du premier "kinetograph" obejet du litige et qu'Acres a souhaité en tirer un profit personnel

To the Editors.
Gentlemen, — Referring to Mr. Acres’ letter in yours of the 13th, stating that a certain individual had advertised himself as being sole manufacturer of these films,” and giving the impression that the successful manufacture in England was due to Mr. Acres alone, it is due to me to state exactly what occurred, leaving your readers to form their own judgment.
In December 1894 I was manufacturing kinetoscopes, and my friend, Mr. S., suggested that if I would construct a camera for taking the films he would introduce me to Mr. Acres, who could undertake the photography. On February 4 Mr. Acres called at my works, and agreed that, if I constructed the camera and tools at my own risk and expense, he would use it for taking films for me solely. He also handed me a sketch of an apparatus for photographic printing, and suggested that some of the actions of this might be utilised for the camera. I pointed out that this could scarcely be done, and of seven mechanical motions embodied two were abandoned, and the remainder replaced by different actions suggested by Mr. S. and myself, only one unimportant piece being retained.
On February 5 and 6, 1895, I designed and constructed (with the cooperation of Mr. S.) a working model. By March 16 I had made drawings of, and finished, a complete kinetograph, for which Mr. Acres found a lens, but in designing the mechanism of which he took no part. Before this was finished, Mr. Acres verbally undertook to share the patent with me. After the kinetograph was tried and found satisfactory, Mr. Acres said he withdrew from this undertaking, and stated that he would purchase the camera, but claimed that he had a right to patent it himself.
On March 28, finding that Mr. Acres insisted on this, and that during the delay the demand for films was rapidly falling off, I gave in upon this point, Mr. Acres signing an agreement to produce films for me for a term of years from that date, and on March 30 our first saleable picture — viz., The Boat Race — was taken.
On July 12, 1895, Mr. Acres stated that he was no longer in a position to make films without being financed, and the agreement was cancelled on his paying for the outfit and compensation. Since then I have constructed a kinetograph on an entirely new principle, which enables me to obtain increased accuracy in the manufacture of the films. — I am, yours,
44, Hatton- garden, London, E.C., March 17, 1896.
P.S. — Referring to the second paragraph of Mr. Acres’ letter, I have submitted the matter for the opinion of Mr. Fletcher Moulton, Q.C., with the following result : —
1. Mr. Moulton is of the opinion that Mr. Friese Green’s patent is limited to the actual details of working described by him, in conjunction with the use of the double lantern, none of which I, in any way, embody in my system.
2. Having submitted to Mr. Moulton the specifications of all kineto- scope projection apparatus, he states that my apparatus in no way infringes upon any of these.

The British Journal of Photography, Londres 27 mars 1896, p. 206-207.

Il ne faut que quelques jours à Birt Acres pour contrattaquer et finir de préciser les choses. Il ne revient pas sur la question du kinetograph, mais insiste sur le fait que c'est bien Robert W. Paul qui a fait appel à lui, par l'entremise de Henry W. Short :

To the Editors.
SIR, — I have read the letter in your issue of the 27th nit. over the name R. W. Paul, but I decline to enter into a wordy contest with him. I will therefore content myself with a few statements.
Towards the latter end of 1894, Mr. H. W. Short (the Mr. S. of your correspondent's letter), who was a constant visitor at my house, informed me that he knew a man who was making Edison kinetoscopes, and who would do anything to get films, as the Edison Company would only sell films to purchasers of their machines. I believe that no patents were taken out on the Edison machine, the Company relying on the difficulty of the successful making of films, and, as machines were of no use with-out films, they made it a stipulation with the sale of films that they were only to be used with their own machines.
Mr. Short knew that I bad invented an apparatus for taking (or printing, the principle is interchangeable) a number of photographs in rapid succession, and suggested that, if I were agreeable, he would introduce me to his friend, who would at his own cost make any machine I required, provided that I would supply him with films. Accordingly, Mr. Short introduced me to Mr. Paul. Mr. Paul admitted to me that he had no idea how to make such an apparatus, but that he would work out my ideas for me. I accordingly showed Mr. Paul how the thing could be accomplished, and made sufficient drawings to enable him to work the machine out. From that date until the machine was finished I attended at Mr. Paul's workshop every evening, modifying and superintending the manufacture of this machine. Mr. Short was only present on rare occasions.
I showed Mr. Short Mr. Paul's letter in your issue of the 27th ult., and he seemed very much surprised, and solemnly declared to me that he (Mr. Short) had not the faintest idea how to set about making such an apparatus before he saw my models and drawings, and he was equally certain that Mr. Paul had not ; and, further, that he (Mr. Short) had bad nothing to do with the designing of the machine.
Mr. Paul's letter would give your readers the impression that a kind of partnership existed between Paul and myself, and speaks of "our first saleable picture."
The truth is that, during the construction of the machine, Paul spoke of patting a large sum of money into the manufacture of films. I expressed myself willing, under such conditions, to give him a share in the venture, but, to my utter astonishment, when the machine was finished, Mr. Paul claimed a half share in it, and this without the slightest intention of putting a sixpence into it. I very well remember Mr. Short's surprise at this claim of Paul's. I finally agreed to appoint Paul agent, Paul agreeing to take a minimum number of films. Later on, Paul said he could not sell the minimum number, and so it became necessary for me to make other arrangements, which I accordingly did, having first cancelled the agreement with Paul.
If Paul thinks that he has any rights in the boat race or any other of my negatives, I would suggest that he makes copies of same in any shape or form, and publishes or makes any use whatever of such copies ; we will then have an opportunity of deciding whose property they are.
In conclusion, I would only add that Mr. Paul has never seen one of my negatives, and has no idea, so far as I am aware, how I print and develop my pictures (my printing machine, which is a special one, being exclusively designed by myself and made on my own premises), my methods of handling film being also my own invention.
Apologising fof trespassing on your space, but I could not allow such a letter to pass without laying the facts before you, — I am, yours, &c.,
BIRT Acres, F.R.MET.S., F.B.P.S.

The British Journal of Photography, Londres, 10 avril 1896, p. 239.

Cette polémique va ainsi prendre fin, mais il est clair que l'enjeu, dès cette année 1896, est tout à fait évident: être le premier à avoir pu enregistrer et projeter des vues animées.

à suivre...



Under the personal superintendence of the inventor, Mr. R.W. PAUL, M.I.E.E., will exhibit, TO-NIGHT, for the first time, an
1. Leaving Maes, Church of San Salvador, Seville.
2. Andalusian Dance, Seville.
3. Street Scene (the Puerto de Sol), Madrid.
4. Varinas (Fishwives) in the Market, Lisbon.
5. The National Game at Pau.
6. Scenes in the Bull Ring, Seville.
7. Street Scene (Praça dom Pedro), Lisbon.
8. Sea Bathing at Cascaes.
9. A Sea Cave on the Coast of Galicia.

With addition of the enormously successful Pictures:
10. The Tsar and Suite on the Road to Versailles.
11. The Tsar and Suite in the Bois de Boulogne.
12. The Twins’ Tea Party.
13. Brighton Beach.
14. Up the River.
15. Children at Play.
16. The Music-Halll Sports.
17. The 92nd Gordon Highlanders Leaving Maryhill Barrracks, Glasgow.
18. The Prince’s Derby.
TO-NIGHT, at 9.40.Daily Telegraph & Courier, London, 22 October 1896, 1.

Britain's Pioneer Technician
ROBERT W. PAUL, pioneer technician of the kinematograph Industry, died on Sunday last in a London nursing home in his 73rd year. The funeral take place tomorrow (Friday) at Putney Vale Cemetery at 12 noon.
Compared with the somewhat meteoric careers of moving picture magnates in America, the life of Robert W. Paul, who died on Sunday last at the age of 73, may seem devoid of brilliance. Yet he could lay claim to being one of those pioneers without whose technical equipment and inventive genius the kinematograph could never have given its entertainment to the public.
Robert Paul's association with kinematography came first through his connection with the business of manufacturing electrical and other scientific instruments which he had started in Hatton Garden in 1891.
Pre-Kinema Days
In 1894, profiting by seeing the mechanisms of two Edison kinetoscopes which had been brought to this country, he set to work to manufacture these machines (on which no patent rights existed) to meet a rapid demand from a public ready to pay to peer through a lens at a continuously running picture strip.
The following year he constructed 60 of these machines, most of which went to travelling shows and fairs; and in conjunction with friends he " produced " the first British pictures for use in kinetoscopes, the Boat Race and the Derby of 1895. It was the success of this form of entertainment and the experience of seeing queues of people waiting their turn to view these pictures that caused R. W. Paul to think of the possibility of throwing pictures on a screen to be viewed by a concourse of persons.
Kinematograph Weekly, Londres, 1er avril 1943, p. 4.

recensement 1901

recensement 1911

Il est enterré au cimetière de Putney.

paul 1943 sepulture
Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium
Putney Vale, London Borough of Wandsworth, Greater London, England


PAUL R. W., C.M. HEPWORTH et W.G. BARKER, "Before 1910: Kinematograph Experiences", Proceedings of the Brithish Kinematograph Society, nº 38, 3 février 1936.