FILM / 1895: a year of miracles: The Chronicle of Cinema 1895-1995

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The Independent Culture
THE MAJOR artform of the 20th century marks its centenary next year, and in celebration we present a brief history, edited down from a longer version in Sight and Sound magazine.

No cultural phenomenon erupts in isolation, and chronicle aims not only to show what's going on in cinema, but also to trace parallel developments in world events: to expose the curious patterns of history.

To launch the series, which will appear in five monthly instalments, what better year to choose than 1885, the birthday of cinema (as well as of some of its greatest practitioners, like John Ford, Rudolph Valentino, Busby Berkeley and Buster Keaton)?

The year 1885, as the World Events column below records, was also an annus mirabilis for 19th-century enterprise in general. And students of film theory, with its belief that the cinema acts as an agent on the unconscious, will be gratified to note that Freud wrote a major study of hysteria in the same year.


13 Feb Auguste and Louis Lumiere patent the cinematographe, a combined motion-picture camera, projector and printer.

19 March Louis Lumiere films La Sortie des usines Lumiere.

30 March Birt Acres films the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race with a camera developed in collaboration with Robert William Paul.

21 April Woodville Latham Kinetoscope Co's panoptikon, a device to project kinetoscope films, demonstrated in New York.

29 May Acres films the Derby. June First film shot with a camera devised by Herman Casler.

5 July W K L Dickson films Sparring Match, Canastota, New York using Casler's camera.

10 August Leon Gaumont establishes Gaumont et Cie in Paris.

28 December Lumiere cinematographe opens to the paying public in the Salon Indien of the Grand Cafe, 14 Bd des Capucines, Paris.


France: La Sortie des usines Lumiere; Arrivee d'un train en gare; L'Arroseur arrose (all short one-reelers by the Lumiere Brothers).

Germany: Das boxende Kanguruh (Skladanowsky).

Britain: The Derby; Rough Sea at Dover (all Birt Acres).

USA Barnum and Bailey series (Edison); Execution of Mary Queen of Scots (Clark / Edison).


17 April China and Japan recognise the independence of Korea.

25 May Oscar Wilde found guilty of charges of homosexual practices after bringing an unsuccessful libel action against the Marquess of Queensberry.

29 December Jameson Raid from Bechuanaland into Transvaal.

Also in 1885: Foundation of the National Trust; von Rontgen discovers X-rays; Marconi invents wireless telegraphy; first British mainline railway electrified; Freud writes Studien uber Hysterie.

Elsewhere in the arts: Mahler, Symphony No 2; Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel; first promenade concerts at Queen's Hall; America the Beautiful; Wells, The Time Machine; Fontane Effi Briest; Wilde The Importance of Being Earnest; Conrad, Almayer's Folly.

Births: Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Paul Hindemith. Deaths: Friedrich Engels, Louis Pasteur, T H Huxley.


1 Feb John Ford

9 Feb Feodor Ozep

28 Feb Marcel Pagnol

9 April Michel Simon

25 April George Hill

3 May Zoltan Korda

5 May Charles MacArthur

6 May Rudolph Valentino

9 May Richard Bathelmess

10 July John Gilbert

11 July Oscar Hammerstein

23 July Florence Vidor

13 Aug Bert Lahr

22 Sept Paul Muni

26 Sept George Raft

30 Sept Lewis Milestone

2 Oct Bud Abbott

4 Oct Buster Keaton

29 Nov Busby Berkeley

2 Dec William Warren

This is an edited version of Part 1 of 'The Chronicle of Cinema' (1895- 1920), prepared by David Robinson

It is available free with the September issue of 'Sight and Sound' magazine.