Jerry Fabris, Thomas Edison National Historical Park - West Orange, New Jersey, USA
Brad McCoy, Library of Congress - Culpeper, VA, USA
George Willeman, The Library of Congress - Culpeper, VA, USA
On February 17, 1913, Thomas A. Edison premiered his newest development in motion pictures—the Edison Kinetophone, a wonderful mechanical system for presenting talking pictures. Taking two of his most popular “inventions,” the phonograph and the motion picture, Edison’s engineers worked out a way to record live sound while simultaneously shooting film and then play back the two elements in sync. The Kinetophone was met with a standing ovation at the premiere and the showings went well for about two weeks. The downfall of the system was one of mechanical complexity and the reality that the human operator just could not keep the film and sound in sync. Although much time and development were put into the Kinetophone, within a year, production stopped and the system was quietly retired. Fast forward a century and with the collaboration of The Library of Congress and The Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the eight Kinetophones known to survive with both picture and sound have been reconstructed, using some of the newest digital applications for both picture and sound. The films now look better and sound better than they did even when they were new.