ON THIS DAY IN UNITED STATES HISTORY
May 20, 1891
The First Public Demonstration of a
Prototype Kinetoscope Takes Place
On this day in 1891, the first public demonstration of a prototype Kinetoscope was given for members of the
National Federation of Women's Clubs. The Kinetoscope was an early motion picture exhibition device.
Although the device was first described by Thomas Edison in 1888 and patented by him August 31, 1897, it was his
employee, William Dickson who was responsible for most of the development. The Kinetoscope did not project the
moving image onto a screen or wall like today's projectors but rather it was contained in a small box that was
viewable through a small hole in the top of the box.
The first Kinetoscope Parlor opened on April 14, 1894 by the Holland Bros. in Yew York City and was considered
the first commercial motion picture house. It held two rows of 5 machines. For 25 cents, a customer
could view all the films in a single row which offered the viewer no more than a few minutes of
entertainment. That wasn't exactly considered cheap entertainment by the standards of the day. At
the time, 25 cents would have gained you admission to a major vaudeville theater or admission to Coney Island
amusement park which included three rides.