Thomas Edison, now one of the most reviled inventors in modern times, was obsessed with patents and using them for financial gain. He was known for buying out and destroying Nikola Tesla (with JP Morgan’s help) in a bid to be the most influential inventor and keep control of the electric system. Tesla, one of the greatest minds of modern times, trustingly went along with Edison for the greater good. Edison took advantage of him and drove him to poverty.
Is it surprising, then, to find out that Thomas Edison was also responsible for the filmmakers of the early 1900’s fleeing the east coast and heading out west?
Edison had over 1,000 patents in his lifetime. He had an early stake in the creation of the kinetoscope, though it was his assistant, William Kennedy Dickson, that did most of the work creating it. The kinetoscope and other early movie making technologies were strictly guarded by Edison and his crew. Using his heavy hand and patented force, he convinced other inventors to join him in forming the Motion Picture Patent Company (MPPC) to wrest total control of the film making and the movie theaters.
From the MPPC’s Wikipedia page:
[T]he MPPC also established a monopoly on all aspects of filmmaking. Eastman Kodak, which owned the patent on raw film stock, was a member of the Trust and thus agreed to only sell stock to other members. Likewise, the Trust’s control of patents on motion picture cameras ensured that only MPPC studios were able to film, and the projector patents allowed the Trust to make licensing agreements with distributors and theaters – and thus determine who screened their films and where.
Not only did Edison and his cronies stop people from using film and the theaters to show it, he sent mobsters after filmmakers to beat the shit out of them, according to Steven Bach’s book, Final Cut.
It was then, that these filmmakers were forced to make a decision. Stay and be owned by this psychopath and his friends or flee.
Being in California offered them lots of sunshine, little rain and all sorts of venues like mountains, deserts, ocean and forests. But most of all, the hired thugs couldn’t get out there without spending an arm and a leg on travel. They had successfully escaped Edison’s insanity. His patents were expiring and the courts were breaking up his monopoly.
Just another notch in the belt of the bastard, Thomas Edison. Maybe his soul rest in electric hell until we bring Tesla’s inventions to the main stream.
GETTY IMAGES/ERIN MCCARTHY