The First Motion Picture Ever – 1888.


It’s only two seconds long.

“Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge” was filmed in Leeds, England in 1888 by inventor Louis LePrince, and is the basis of the fascinating promo for the 2005 Leeds Film Festival. The pulsating soundtrack is by the legendary Billy Nayer Show.

Despite the fanfare, “Leeds Bridge” is only the world’s second film. The first film is called “The Roundhay Garden Scene,” and it’s also only two seconds long. It was produced by LePrince only shortly before “Leeds Bridge.”

Equally curious is the coupling of “Roundhay Garden” and “Leeds Bridge” to the earliest surviving music recording, “Handel Israel in Egypt.” (Crystal Palace, London — 1888)

In 1890, LePrince was on the verge of patenting his original 16 lens motion picture camera, but mysteriously disappeared on a train, never to be found again. His suspicious disappearance paved the way for Edison to claim his patent on the motion picture camera and earn millions with his “invention.”

Similarly, the world’s first sound recording that survives is the eerie rendition of inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville (1817-1879) singing “Au Clair de la Lune” (previously thought to be a woman’s voice) made in 1860 by the unappreciated French inventor, whose recordings preceded Edison’s earliest recording of 1888.

America’s first sound recording was made by inventor Frank Lambert in 1878.

There is an urban legend that de Martinville recorded Abraham Lincoln’s voice in 1863 and that it was kept in Edison’s vault until now, but there are no travel records of Martinville going to the U.S. at the time.

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2 Responses to “The First Motion Picture Ever – 1888.”

  1. Marc Says:

    You can add Canadian Reginald Fessenden to that list of inventors who never got rich for their discoveries. Fessenden was the first to realize radio as we understand it today – not publicity-hog Marconi…

    I’ve also heard stories from cameramen of the day about Edison’s men who would arrive at a news scene and smash competitors camera equipment in order to control their monopoly.