Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: 1893

Barber Shop (1893)

Barber Shop

A simple vignette of a men’s society from the nineteenth century, this was another of the experiments with the early Kinetoscope. Four men, a chair and a sign stand in for a typical barber shop. One man sits and is shaved by another, while the other two wait, look at the paper of talk to one another. The whole thing was set up in Edison’s “Black Maria” studio (so called because it was said to resemble a police van, and “black maria” was the slang term for these before “paddy wagon” became popular), just as the Blacksmith Scene had been in the same year. Barber shops were familiar and comfortable locations, where men escaped from their workaday duties and also the scrutiny of their wives for short periods – sort of like bars or taverns, only less disreputable. In the all-male environment of the Edison Studio at this time, it no doubt seemed a natural subject for an experimental film. Today, the idea of being shaved by someone else is fairly alien, and sets the period apart as distant to us, something that would be reproduced on film to establish the past, although to the filmmakers on this project, it was as natural a part of life as ATMs or traffic lights are to us.

Director: WKL Dickson & William Heise

Run Time: 26 seconds.

You can watch it for free: here.

Blacksmith Scene (1893)


This is another of the early Edison kinetoscope movies that was meant to demonstrate what motion picture cameras could do. This was the first known movie to be presented to audiences, and also the first example of actors performing roles on film. This was not an actual shot of a blacksmith shop, it was set up in the Black Maria studio to reproduce one. It establishes the long-running tradition of framing a “stage” in which actors move about, with no camera movement or closeups. It’s interesting to modern viewers in part because most of us have only seen blacksmiths in movies about earlier eras, but this was not intended as a “period piece;” it’s a depiction of everyday life as the viewers of that time would have recognized it. It’s also surprising to see workers consuming alcohol on the job, around dangerous heavy tools and flame.

Director: W.K.L. Dickson

Run Time: 34 seconds

You can watch it for free: here