|Founder||William Kennedy Dickson|
|United States, Europe|
The Biograph Company, also known as the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, was a motion picture company founded in 1895 and active until 1916. It was the first company in the United States devoted entirely to film production and exhibition, and for two decades was one of the most prolific, releasing over 3000 short films and 12 feature films.   During the height of silent film as a medium, Biograph was U.S. most prominent film studio and one of the most respected and influential studios worldwide, only rivaled by Germany's UFA, Sweden's Svensk Filmindustri and France's Pathé. The company was home to pioneering director D. W. Griffith and such actors as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Lionel Barrymore.
The company was started by William Kennedy Dickson, an inventor at Thomas Edison's laboratory who helped pioneer the technology of capturing moving images on film. Dickson left Edison in April 1895, joining with inventors Herman Casler, Henry Marvin and businessman Elias Koopman to incorporate the American Mutoscope Company in New Jersey on December 30, 1895.  The firm manufactured the Mutoscope and made flip-card movies for it as a rival to Edison's Kinetoscope for individual "peep shows", making the company Edison's chief competitor in the nickelodeon market. In the summer of 1896 the Biograph projector was released, offering superior image quality to Edison's Vitascope projector. The company soon became a leader in the film industry, with distribution and production subsidiaries around the world, including the British Mutoscope Co. In 1899 it changed its name to the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, and in 1908 to simply the Biograph Company. 
To avoid violating Edison's motion picture patents, Biograph cameras from 1895 to 1902 used a large-format film, measuring 2+23⁄32 inches (69 mm) wide, with an image area of 2 by 2+1⁄2 inches (51 mm × 64 mm), four times that of Edison's 35 mm format. The camera used friction feed instead of Edison's sprocket feed to guide the film to the aperture. The camera itself punched a sprocket hole on each side of the frame as the film was exposed at 30 frames per second.   A patent case victory in March 1902 allowed Biograph and other producers and distributors to use the less expensive 35 mm format without an Edison license, although Biograph did not completely phase out 68 mm production until autumn of 1903.  Biograph offered prints in both formats to exhibitors until 1905, when it discontinued the larger format.  
Biograph films before 1903, were mostly "actualities," documentary film footage of actual persons, places and events, each film usually less than two minutes long, such as the one of the Empire State Express, which premiered on October 12, 1896 in New York City.  The occasional narrative film, usually a comedy, was typically shot in one scene, with no editing. Spurred on by competition from Edison and British and European producers, Biograph production from 1903 onward was increasingly dominated by narratives. As the stories became more complex the films became longer, with multiple scenes to tell the story, although an individual scene was still usually presented in one shot without editing. Biograph's production of actualities ended by 1908 in favor of the narrative film.
The company's first studio was located on the roof of 841 Broadway at 13th St. in Manhattan, known then as the Hackett Carhart Building and today as the Roosevelt Building. The set-up was similar to Thomas Edison's "Black Maria" in West Orange, New Jersey, with the studio itself being mounted on circular tracks to be able to get the best possible sunlight (as of 1988 the foundations of this machinery were still extant). The company moved in 1906 to a converted brownstone mansion at 11 East 14th Street near Union Square, a building that was razed in the 1960s.  This was Biograph's first indoor studio, and the first movie studio in the world to rely exclusively on artificial light. Biograph moved again in 1913, as it entered feature-film production, to a new state-of-the-art studio on 175th Street in the Bronx.
There was the problem of the underground "duping" business, where people would illegally duplicate a copyrighted movie and then remove the title screen with the company and copyright notice and sell it to theaters. In order to make the theater audience aware that they were watching an American Biograph movie (regardless of whether it was illegally "duped" or not) the AB logo would be prominently placed in random parts of the movie. 
Director D. W. Griffith joined Biograph in 1908 as a writer and actor, but within months became its principal director. In 1908, the company's head director Wallace McCutcheon grew ill, and his son Wallace McCutcheon Jr. took his place but was not able to make a successful film for the company.  As a result of these failed productions, studio head Henry Marvin gave the position of head director to Griffith, whose first film was The Adventures of Dollie.  Griffith helped establish many of the conventions of narrative film, including cross-cutting to show events occurring simultaneously in different places, the flashback, the fade-in/fade-out, the interposition of closeups within a scene, and a moderated acting style more suitable for film. Although Griffith did not invent these techniques, he made them a regular part of the film vocabulary. His prolific output—often one new film a week—and willingness to experiment in many different genres helped the company become a major commercial success. Many early movie stars were Biograph performers, including Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, Robert Harron, Arthur V. Johnson, Florence Auer, Robert G. Vignola, Owen Moore, Alan Hale Sr., Florence Lawrence, Blanche Sweet, Harry Carey, James Kirkwood Sr., Mabel Normand, Henry B. Walthall, Mae Marsh, and Dorothy Davenport. Mack Sennett honed his craft as an actor and director of comedies at Biograph. After debuting at Biograph, Mary Pickford also became a top star at the studio and would soon be known to audiences as "The Biograph Girl". 
In January 1910, Griffith and Lee Dougherty with the rest of the Biograph acting company travelled to Los Angeles. While the purpose of the trip was to shoot Ramona in authentic locations, it was also to determine the suitability of the West Coast as a place for a permanent studio. The group set up a small facility at Washington Street and Grand Avenue. After this, Griffith and his players decided to go a little further north to a small village they had heard about that was friendly and had beautiful floral scenery. They decided to travel there and fell in love with this little place called Hollywood. Biograph then made the first film ever in Hollywood called In Old California , a Latino melodrama about the early days of Mexico-owned California.  Griffith and the Biograph troupe filmed other short movies at various locations, then traveled back to New York. After the East Coast film community heard about Hollywood, other companies began to migrate there. Biograph's little film launched Hollywood as the future movie capital of the world. It opened a studio at Pico and Georgia streets in downtown Los Angeles (where the Los Angeles Convention Center now stands) in 1911, and sent a film crew to work there each year until 1916.
Griffith left Biograph in October 1913 after finishing Judith of Bethulia , unhappy with the company's resistance to larger budgets, feature film production or giving onscreen credit to him and the cast. With him went many of the Biograph actors, his cameraman Billy Bitzer and his production crew. As a final slight to Griffith, Biograph delayed release of Judith of Bethulia until March 1914, to avoid a profit-sharing arrangement the company had with him. 
In December 1908 Biograph joined Edison in forming the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to control the industry and shut out smaller producers.  The "Edison Trust," as it was nicknamed, was made up of Edison, Biograph, Essanay Studios, Kalem Company, George Kleine Productions, Lubin Studios, Georges Méliès, Pathé, Selig Studios and Vitagraph Studios, and dominated distribution through the General Film Co. The Motion Picture Patents Co. and the General Film Co. were found guilty of antitrust violation in October 1915 and dissolved. 
Shielded by the Trust, Biograph had been slow to enter feature film production. It contracted with the theatrical firm of Klaw & Erlanger in 1913 to produce movie versions of the latter's plays. Its first released feature, Classmates, came out in February 1914, after 69 other American features had been released in 1912–13.  Distribution was hampered by Biograph using a special perforation pattern on the Klaw & Erlanger features that was incompatible with standard projectors, forcing exhibitors to lease specialized equipment from Biograph in order to show the films. With the exodus of the studio's best actors to Griffith, Biograph was unable to develop a marketable star system as the independent companies were doing, and after the Trust's fall, Biograph found itself behind the times. The Biograph Co. released its last new feature-length films in 1915 and its last new short films in 1916.  Biograph spent the remainder of the silent era reissuing its old films, and leasing its Bronx studio to other producers.
When the company fell on financial hard times, the Biograph Studio facilities and film laboratory in the Bronx were acquired by one of Biograph Company's creditors, the Empire Trust Company, although some of the ex-Biograph staff were retained to manage the studio and laboratory facilities. Herbert Yates acquired the Biograph Studios facilities and film laboratory in 1928. Biograph Studios facilities and film laboratory were made a subsidiary of his Consolidated Film Industries in 1928.   The studio facilities and laboratory burned down in 1980. 
In 1939, Iris Barry, founder of the film department at the Museum of Modern Art, acquired 900 cans of film from the Actinograph Corp. Bronx Biograph studio and laboratory facitlies, which was closing its film vault and planning to destroy all the film. One uncompleted film, Lime Kiln Field Day (1913), with an all African American cast, was found among the many cans of film, and shown at MOMA in November 2014.
From 1954 to 1957, Sterling Television Company distributed a package of 100 quarter-hour television shows titled Movie Museum, featuring Biograph, Edison and other early films from the vaults of the Museum of Modern Art and the George Eastman House.
David Wark Griffith was an American film director. Considered one of the most influential figures in the history of the motion picture, he pioneered many aspects of film editing and expanded the art of the narrative film.
Gladys Marie Smith, known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-American stage and screen actress and producer with a career that spanned five decades. A pioneer in the US film industry, she co-founded Pickford–Fairbanks Studios and United Artists, and was one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Pickford is considered to be one of the most recognisable women in history.
The Motion Picture Patents Company, founded in December 1908 and terminated seven years later in 1915 after conflicts within the industry, was a trust of all the major US film companies and local foreign-branches, the leading film distributor and the biggest supplier of raw film stock, Eastman Kodak. The MPPC ended the domination of foreign films on US screens, standardized the manner in which films were distributed and exhibited within the US, and improved the quality of US motion pictures by internal competition. But it also discouraged its members' entry into feature film production, and the use of outside financing, both to its members' eventual detriment.
William Kennedy Laurie Dickson was a British inventor who devised an early motion picture camera under the employment of Thomas Edison.
Gottfried Wilhelm Bitzer was an American cinematographer, notable for his close association and pioneering work with D. W. Griffith.
The following is an overview of the events of 1895 in film, including a list of films released and notable births.
An independent film, independent movie, indie film, or indie movie is a feature film or short film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. Independent films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers' personal artistic vision is realized. Usually, but not always, independent films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.
Biograph Studios was an early film studio and laboratory complex, built in 1912 by the Biograph Company at 807 East 175th Street, in The Bronx, New York City, New York.
William Nicholas Selig was a vaudeville performer and pioneer of the American motion picture industry. His stage billing as Colonel Selig, would be used for the rest of his career, even as he moved into film production.
Edison Studios was an American film production organization, owned by companies controlled by inventor and entrepreneur, Thomas Edison. The studio made close to 1,200 films, as part of the Edison Manufacturing Company (1894–1911) and then Thomas A. Edison, Inc. (1911–1918), until the studio's closing in 1918. Of that number, 54 were feature length, and the remainder were shorts. All of the company's films have fallen into the public domain because they were released before 1928.
Actuality film is a non-fiction film genre that, like documentary film, uses footage of real events, places, and things. Unlike documentaries, actuality films are not structured into a larger narrative or coherent whole. In practice, actuality films preceded the emergence of the documentary. During the era of early cinema, actualities—usually lasting no more than a minute or two and usually assembled together into a program by an exhibitor—were just as popular and prominent as their fictional counterparts. The line between "fact" and "fiction" was not as sharply drawn in early cinema as it would be after documentaries came to serve as the predominant non-fiction filmmaking form. Actuality is a film genre that remains strongly related to still photography.
Marion Leonard was an American stage actress who became one of the first motion picture celebrities in the early years of the silent film era.
Herman Casler was an American inventor and co-founder of the partnership called the K.M.C.D. Syndicate, along with W.K-L. Dickson, Elias Koopman, and Henry Marvin, which eventually was incorporated into the American Mutoscope Company in December 1895.
Linda Arvidson was an American stage and film actress who became one of America's early motion picture stars while working at Biograph Studios in New York, where none of the company's actors, until 1913, were credited on screen. Along with Florence Lawrence, Marion Leonard, and other female performers there, she was often referred to by theatergoers and in trade publications as simply one of the "Biograph girls". Arvidson began working in the new, rapidly expanding film industry after meeting her future husband D. W. Griffith, who impressed her as an innovative screen director. Their marriage was kept secret for reasons of professional discretion.
Sherlock Holmes Baffled is an American short silent film created in 1900 with cinematography by Arthur Marvin. It is the earliest known film to feature Arthur Conan Doyle's detective character Sherlock Holmes, albeit in a form unlike that of later screen incarnations. In the film, a thief who can appear and disappear at will steals a sack of items from Sherlock Holmes. At each point, Holmes's attempts to thwart the intruder end in failure.
Mary Pickford (1892–1979) was a Canadian-American motion picture actress, producer, and writer. During the silent film era she became one of the first great celebrities of the cinema and a popular icon known to the public as "America's Sweetheart".
Herbert Yost was an American actor who in a career that spanned nearly half a century performed predominantly on stage in stock companies and in numerous Broadway productions. Yost also acted in motion pictures, mostly in one-reel silent shorts released by the Biograph Company and Edison Studios between November 1908 and July 1915. By the time he began working in the film industry, Yost already had more than a decade of stage experience in hundreds of dramatic and comedic roles and was widely regarded in the theatre community "as one of the country's finest stock actors". Reportedly, to reduce the risk of tarnishing his reputation as a professional actor by being identified as a screen performer, Yost often billed himself as "Barry O'Moore" while working in films. He was ultimately cast in scores of motion pictures in the early silent era, although with the exceptions of appearing in three more films in the sound era, Yost spent the remaining decades of his career acting in major theatre productions, almost exclusively on Broadway.
Gladys Egan was an early 20th-century American child actress, who between 1907 and 1914 performed professionally in theatre productions as well as in scores of silent films. She began her brief entertainment career appearing on the New York stage as well as in plays presented across the country by traveling companies. By 1908 she also started working in the film industry, where for six years she acted almost exclusively in motion pictures for the Biograph Company of New York. The vast majority of her screen roles during that period were in shorts directed by D. W. Griffith, who cast her in over 90 of his releases. While most of Egan's films were produced by Biograph, she did work for other motion-picture companies between 1911 and 1914, such as the Reliance Film Company and Independent Moving Pictures. By 1916, Egan's acting career appears to have ended, and she no longer was being mentioned in major trade journals or included in published studio personnel directories as a regularly employed actor. Although she may have performed as an extra or in some bit parts after 1914, no available filmographies or entertainment publications from the period cite Egan in any screen or stage role after that year.
The Centaur Film Company was an American motion picture production company founded in 1907 in Bayonne, New Jersey, by William and David Horsley. It was the first independent motion picture production company in the United States. In 1909 the company added a West Coast production unit, the Nestor Film Company, which established the first permanent film studio in Hollywood, California, in 1911. The company was absorbed by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in 1912.
Wallace McCutcheon Sr. was a pioneer cinematographer and director in the early American motion picture industry, working with the American Mutoscope & Biograph, Edison and American Star Film companies. McCutcheon's wealth of credits are often mixed up with the small handful of films directed by his son, Wallace McCutcheon Jr. (1884–1928).