News

2016

Minute Bodies
Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith, described as an "Absorbing, hypnotic cinematic meditation crafted from the work of one Britain’s most important but little-known filmmakers" is a creative edit of the natural history films of Percy Smith, Charles Urban's special collaborator. The film is screening at the London Film Festival on 11 October 2016, at 21:00 (details here). The 55-minute film is directed by Stuart A Staples, and features a new interpretative score by the director's alternative rock band tindersticks. A selection of selection of special live cine-events is planned for the film in 2017. It is distributed by the BFI. (October 2016)

Urban on Flickr
I have created an album on Flickr for images relating to the career and films of Charles Urban. The collection includes photographs and illustrations from Urban's 1903 catalogue, We Put the World Before You, and images such as the Photochrom colour postcards of the documentary film Britain Preapred and cartoons of Urban, which can already be found on this site. I will be adding more images in due course, including images from other, later catalogues. (June 2016)

Kinemacolor in Bologna
This year's Il Cinema Ritrovato, the annual festival of restored and historic films held in Bologna, will include a section entitled 'In Search of Color: From Kinemacolor to Technicolor', which will include some examples of Kinemacolor from the Bologna film archive. Bologna holds what is probably the largest collection of surviving Kinemacolor films in the world, around twenty titles (as listed elsewhere on this site). (June 2016)

2015

A Canine Sherlock Holmes
Flicker Alley has released a DVD and Blu-Ray set of Sherlock Holmes (1916), the recently-discovered feature film version of the play in which William Gillette (who also stars in the film) made himself the world's leading performer of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective. Among the many extras that come with the film is A Canine Sherlock Holmes (1912). This British short film was made by the Charles Urban Trading Company, and stars Spot the Urbanora Dog, who appeared in a small number of Urban films at this time. In the film, directed by Stuart Kinder, a detective is able to foil a set of bank thieves through the enterprising efforts of his pet dog, which include feigning injury to gain entry into the thieves' house, and taking a handwirtten note to the police to get them to come and rescue his master. On this evidence, Spot was probably the finest dramatic performer Urban ever employed. (December 2015)

A special relationship
The latest publication by the highly prolific American film historian Anthony slide is A Special Relationship: Britain Comes to Hollywood and Hollywood Comes to Britain. The book provides a historical overview of the British in Hollywood, along with a detailed study of the contributions made by American individuals and companies to British cinema from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards. It opens with the story of the American-born Charles Urban, who, the book's blurb says, "deserves credit for major involvement in the creation of a British film industry". The book was published in the UK by University Press of Mississippi on 28 August 2015. (September 2015)

Two new books
Two books are being published in June which cover the work of some of Charles Urban's key employees. Oliver Gaycken's Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science is published by Oxford University Press and is a study of the popular science film from its origins in 1903 through to the mid-teens. It pays particular attention to the ingenious work of Urban's first scientific filmmaking collague, the British zoologist Francis Martin-Duncan. Dan Etherley’s Bushmaster: Raymond Ditmars and the Hunt for the World’s Largest Viper, published by Arcade Publishing, is an account of another zoologist-turned-filmmaker who worked with Urban. The American Ditmars collaborated with Urban on the pioneering documentaries The Four Seasons (1921) and Evolution (1925). (May 2015)

2014

The Four Seasons
A copy of Charles Urban's pioneering natural history documentary feature, The Four Seasons has turned up online, courtesy of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and its Open Images open media platform. The copy has (very wordy) Dutch intertitles, but the film, though slow, does live up to its reputation at the time as a lyrical account of natural life with an underlying narrative based on the turning of the seasons. The film was shot for Urban by the American naturalist Raymond T. Ditmars. The film can be downloaded and reused under a CC licence. It can be seen via Charles Urban's Wikipedia page, on the Films section of this site, and right. (December 2014)

Science fiction
Three early science fiction films produced by Urban have been made available online for free on the BFI Player site to coincide with the BFI's Sci-fi - Days of Fear and Wonder season. They are The Airship Destroyer (1909), Aerial Submarine (1910) and The Automatic Motorist (1911). All three were directed by Walter R. Booth, the former magician turned filmmaker whose witty and inventive trick films form some of the very best of Urban's surviving fiction films. (December 2014)

Secret Warriors
The latest book by historian and television producer Taylor Downing is Secret Warriors: Key Scientists, Code Breakers and Propagandists of the Great War (Little, Brown: 2014). The book deals with those significant characters to contributed to the war effort away from the frontlines, including war propagandists, and among these those who were involved in film propaganda. Charles Urban is among those covered, including his production of the first British propaganda film of the war, Britain Prepared (1915), his editing of The Battle of the Somme (1916) and his mixed efforts distributing British official films in America. (October 2014)

Early films of British India
The latest issue of Early Popular Visual Culture (vol 12 issue 3 August 2014) has an essay by Rianne Siebenga, 'Crafts and industry in early films of British India: contrasting album and process films'. This discusses the different ways in which tradional crafts and modern industrial processes in India were filmed by different companies, and makes many references to the films of Charles Urban. The issue is available online to subscribing institutions only. (September 2014)

Krasna-Krausz Award for Urban
My book Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America, 1897-1925 has been given the Best Moving Image Book Award at the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Awards, which were held on 30 April at the London Hilton alongside the Sony World Photography Awards. The KKF Book Awards are the United Kingdom’s leading prizes for photography and moving image books and are held annually. Charles Urban is published by University of Exeter Press, to whom many thanks. This year's shortlisted books have been included as part of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House from 1-18 May. (April 2014)

Urban 1903 catalogue online
The 1903 Charles Urban Trading Company catalogue has been made available online at the Internet Archive, courtesy of the Media History Digital Library, which is progressively digitising historical film journals and other media publications. The 1903 catalogue was the first produced by Urban after he had left the Warwick Trading Company and formed his own company. Entitled We Put the World Before You by Means of the Bioscope and Urban Films, it is not as extensive as the later CUTC catalogues, simply because company had not produced that many films by that date. But it includes F. Martin Duncan's 'Unseen World' natural history films, the 'Living Canada' series, G.A. Smith fiction films, and many other non-fiction and fiction titles. It is the first Urban film catalogue to be made available online (as opposed to Urban equipment catalogues, of which there are several available). (April 2014)

Bradford International Film Festival
Charles Urban, to the best of my knowledge, has never been the subject of a strand in a film festival, until now. The Bradford International Film Festival (27 March-6 April 2014) features Charles Urban - He Put the World Before You, a programme of several Urban short films including The Birth of a Flower (1910), Cheese Mites (1903) and a performance of Secrets of Nature, a compilation of scenes from films produced by Urban's protégé Percy Smith, with live music by Metamono. The short films are being show alongside longer films showing during the festival. Bradford is the home of the National Media Museum, which holds Charles Urban's papers and had many examples of Urban cameras, projectors and other motion picture equipment. (March 2014)

Book reviews
There have been some reviews of my Charles Urban book. The latest, by Oliver Gaycken for Viewfinder magazine, is freely available online. Other reviews have been by Eric J. Iannelli for the Times Literary Supplement and Taylor Downing for History Today. (February 2014)

The Battle of the Somme and iWonder
As part of the BBC's huge World War One centenary plans, the broadcaster has produced a series of multi-format online guides, entitled iWonder, which explores aspects of the war in the form of questions and answers, with much illustrative material. One such iWonder is Why was the Battle of the Somme film bigger than Star Wars? This examines the great popularity of the 1916 film, which some have estimated was seen by 20 million people, or half the UK population. The piece notes Charles Urban's contribution to the film's success as its editor, and makes some good use of (unacknowledged) research done on the film by scholars such as Stephen Badsey, Roger Smither and Nicholas Hiley. (February 2014)

2013

Spirograph and Wrestling
The latest edition of Early Popular Visual Culture (vol. 11, iss. 4) has two articles that relate to Charles Urban. 'Wrestling and cinema, 1892–1911' by Luke Stadel includes references to the wrestling bouts featuring George Hackenschmidt that were filmed by Urban. Erkki Huhtamo's 'The dream of personal interactive media: A media archaeology of the Spirograph, a failed moving picture revolution' is a major study of the Sirograph, the film-on-disc viewer that Urban attempted to market in the early 1920s, ultimately without success. (December 2013)

Pioneering the Non-fiction Film
I am giving a talk at the British Library on 25 November, entitled 'Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-fiction Film'. The talk will cover the main aspects of Urban's career while showing how the non-fiction film developed in the first years of the twentieth century. The talk will feature films made by Urban, including some rare examples of Kinemacolor films from the 1910s. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by silent film pianist Neil Brand. Further details and a booking form are available on the British Library website at www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event154166.html. (September 2013)

Charles Urban published
My book Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America, 1897-1925 is published today, 1 August 2013. It tells the story of the leading pioneer of the non-fiction film, serving also as an historical study of the development of the non-fiction film in Britain and America in the early years of cinema. It covers Urban's production and promotion of Kinemacolor, thr world's first successful natural colour moving picture system, and his work in the filming of war, science, travel, actuality and news, his efforts as a wartime propagandist, and his grand vision for educational film. It is published in the UK by University of Exeter Press and in the USA by University of Chicago Press. (August 2013)

Kinemacolor animation
A stop-frame animation film in Kinemacolor has been published on YouTube by Huntley Film Archives. They give it the title Stop Frame Animated Dolls on flashing background, dating it as 1900s. The film has been before now, under the title Animated Circus Dolls. It does not match any known Kinemacolor production, and may be a test film that was never commercially released. There were a few Kinemacolor animated films featuring toys made in 1912-13, so it is likely that the film dates from then. The film shows circus toys demonstrating a variety of tricks and is shown without the Kinemacolor effect, so it appears and black-and-white with a pronounced flickering effect as it alternates between the red and green filter records. It can be seen at http://youtu.be/38uHQgK9AFY. (July 2013)

Urban and Hepworth
My book Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America now has a publication date: 1 August 2013. It is being published by by University of Exeter Press, in their Exeter Studies in Film History series. The US distributor is the University of Chicago Press. It is good to see Exeter's commitment to early film history, and in 2015 they will be publishing Simon Brown's Cecil Hepworth and the Rise of the British Film Industry 1899-1911, a most welcome study of the British film pioneer who was employed for a time by Charles Urban. (June 2013)

Edwardian insects
A television programme about Charles Urban's great naturalist collaborator Percy Smith, entitled Edwardian Insects on Film is to be broadcast by BBC4 on 19 March 2013. The programme recreates the making of Smith's most celebrated film, The Balancing Bluebottle (1908), in which a fly demonstrates its strength and agility by balancing objects larger than itself while being tied down with thread. As with Smith's original production, no harm comes to the fly which is released afterwards.There is a preview of the programme at https://vimeo.com/59293293. (March 2013)

Charles Urban the book
This website is based on research I undertook in writing my 2004 thesis on Charles Urban. Nine years on, and a version of that thesis is to be published later this year as Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America, by University of Exeter Press, as part of their Exeter Studies in Film History series. The book covers all of Charles Urban's film career, with chapters on his early working years with Maguire & Baucus and the Warwick Trading Company, on the Charles Urban Trading Company, on Kinemacolor, on his experiences as a propagandist during World War One, and on his post-war educational film experiments. More information will be made available here nearer to publication. (March 2013)

Website redesign
This website has undergone a major re-design (its fifth since the site was first created back in 1999). The Early Cinema Gateway of links to early and silent cinema sites has been removed, as it had not been updated in years and had been superseded by the links on my other site, The Bioscope. All of the remaining main texts have been retained and updated where necessary, with some rationalisation of texts and pages for greater clarity. Two substantial additions are the complete text of Charles Urban's important 1907 document, The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State and a listing of surviving Kinemacolor films. There is also a new list of all those known to have worked for Charles Urban given on the Biographies page. (March 2013)

2012

World's first colour movie
The National Media Museum in Bradford UK has announced the discovery of the world's earliest example of colour cinematography. The assorted colour tests were made by Edward R. Turner in 1902 using a three-colour camera that he developed with F. Marshall Lee. The work was funded by Charles Urban, and following Turner's death in 1903 Urban invited G.A. Smith to work on the system, the projector for which did not function properly. Smith solved the problem by removing one of the colour filters, an invention which led to the world's first successful natural colour system, Kinemacolor. There is a report on the BBC News site and a programme on the film, The Race for Colour will be broadcast on 17 September 2012 on BBC One South East and Yorkshire, and will be available UK-wise for seven days thereafter on iPlayer. (September 2012)

2011

Capturing Colour
Capturing Colour: Film, Invention and Wonder is an exhibition on the early history of motion picture colour and related media. The exhibition opened on 4 December at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and runs until 20 March 2011. Kinemacolor features strongly in the exhibition and there is a Kinemacolor projector and a Lee and Turner three-colour projector (the system that preceded and inspired Kinemacolor) on display, from the collection of the National Media Museum. The exhibition covers magic lanterns, early colour photography, chromatropes, Kromskops and applied colour films, through to Kinemacolor, Kodachrome and Technicolor, and explores dramas and actualities, Hollywood productions and home movies. (January 2011)

2010

From the colonies
A new resource, Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire, brings together records of 6,000 films of the British Empire and colonies from the BFI National Archive, Imperial War Museum and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. Around 150 films are available to view on the site, and they include three Charles Urban films not previously available online: H.M. Lomas's A Trip through British North Borneo (1907), released by the Charles Urban Company; Harold Sintzenich and Charlie Weddup's Montego Bay to Williamsfield, Jamaica (1913), issued by Kineto; and Emile Lauste's Great Victoria Falls, Zambezi River (1907) from the Urban-Africa series of films. (November 2010)

Urban discoveries at Pordenone
At this year's Giornate del Cinema Muto (the Pordenone silent film festival) there were two Charles Urban discoveries on show. Both are part of the remarkable Corrick Collection of films exhibited by New Zealand touring entertainers the Corrick family in the early 1900s, and now preserved by the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia. In 2008 the Collection yielded up part of Urban's The Streets of London (1906, see October 2008 news reports below). This year the films were The Waif and the Statue (1907), made for Urban by Walter R. Booth, and an as yet unidentified Urban film of a procession of boats in Burma, probably dating from 1903 and if so then one of those filmed for Urban at that time by J. Gregory Mantle (two films on this theme were advertised in the Giornate catalogue but only one was shown). (October 2010)

Urban catalogues online
The Cinémathèque française has digitised a large number of early film trade catalogues, most equipment catalogues. The documents have been added to the Cinémathèque's digital library, the Bibliothèque numérique du cinéma. There are four Charles Urban catalogues in the collection: Urban bioscope and accessories / Charles Urban Trading Co., Ltd. [1907] (PDF 12MB); Urban Bioscopes, cameras and accessories: price list / Charles Urban Trading Co., Ltd. [1910] (PDF 14MB); Urbanora projectors, cameras and accessories: price list, 1914 / Charles Urban Trading Co. Ltd [1914] (PDF 28MB) and Spirograph library of motion picture discs / Spiro Film Corporation [1928] (PDF 40MB). (August 2010)

Kinemacolor camera no. 108
Sam Dodge, an American collector of historical motion picture equipment, has acquired a pristine model of a Kinemacolor camera which he is advertising on his personal site (see www.samdodge.com/html/kine108/Camera.html. It is handsomely illustrated with many photographs. The camera was originally purchased from Charles Urban by the Maharajah of Kathiawad following the filming of the Delhi Durbar in 1911. (June 2010)

A History of the World
The BBC and British Museum are collaborating on a project, A History of the World, which examines world history through museum objects. At its centrepiece is a BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects with concentrates on 100 objects from the British Museum, but the web version of the project extends across objects in museums across the UK, and from Sussex Hove Museum and Art Gallery has contributed an image of a 1910 Kinemacolor camera made by Moy and Bastie. The description champions G.A. Smith as Kinemaolor's inventor but unfortunately makes no mention of Charles Urban, Kinemacolor's producer and passionate advocate. As someone whose slogan was 'We Put the World before You' he would have been deeply proud to see Kinemacolor takes its place within the history of the world. (January 2010)

Time Out Delhi
The Delhi edition of Time Out has published a piece on the Kinemacolor film of the 1911 Delehi Durbar ceremonies, With Our King and Queen Through India. 'Imperial Colours' is written by Raghu Karnad and traces the history of the film from its production through to its loss and the rediscovery of a single reel in Russia in 200. The piece includes a number of video frame grabs demonstrating the digitally recreated colour. The piece is being covered by other Time Out editions in India. (January 2010)

2009

One hundred years ago
Il Cinema Ritrovato, the festival of archive film held each year in Bologna, Italy, has a regular strand showcasing the films of one hundred years ago. This year a DVD been made available as well. Cento annia fa: Il cinema europeo del 1909 includes twenty-two films dating from 1909 provided by nine European archives. the films include Animated Cotton, produced by the Charles Urban Trading Company, and North Sea Fisheries and Rescue made by former Urban employee Joseph Rosenthal for his own film company. (August 2009)

Ghosts on the Somme
Published this month by Pen & Sword (military book specialists is Alastair H. Fraser, Andrew Robertshaw and Steve Roberts' Ghosts on the Somme: Filming the Battle, June-July 1916. This is a meticulous archaeological analysis of the 1916 documentary The Battle of the Somme, filmed by Geoffrey Malins and J.B. McDowell, and edited by Charles Urban. It attempts to identify every shot in the film in terms of location, date, military unit, operator and in some cases the people featured, with reference to original documents, photographs and present-day geography. It is an unprecedented study which revalues the film in terms of authenticity and historical value. (March 2009)

Senses of Cinema
Ian Christie, who discovered the Charles Urban travelogue The Streets of London (1906) at the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia, has written an article on the film's history and significance. 'The Girl with the Speck of Dust in Her Eye: Living London Returns' is published in the online journal Senses of Cinema. Despite the reference to Living London, the 1904 Urban title which the rediscovered film was originally believed to be, Christie notes the revised identification. (February 2009)

2008

Kinemacolor screening again
On 15 February 2009 the National Media Museum is hosting Entitled Bringing Colour to the Movies - re-creating what it was like to go to the Picture Palace a century ago, a special programme of early film hosted by David Cleveland and Brian Pritchard, which will include a screening of Kinemacolor using the Kinemacolor no. 19 projector from Wirral Museum. More information can be found on The Bioscope. (December 2008)

The Battle of the Somme on DVD
The greatest film with which Charles Urban was associated, The Battle of the Somme (1916) is being released for the first time on DVD. Urban was the editor on the feature-length film (working with one of its two cameramen, Geoffrey Malins), which recorded the build up to the battle, the attack on 1 June, and the aftermath. Released in Britain in September 1916, it had an unprecedented impact, being seen by almost half the British population (an estimated 20,000,000 people). The DVD is published by the Imperial War Museum, whose archive preserves the film. It comes with a new orchestral score by Laura Rossi and an 'original' score reconstructed by Stephen Horne from musical suggestions made at the time for acompanying the film. (November 2008)

Or maybe The Streets of London
On 24 October 2008 Trafalgar Square was the venue for a screening of archive films of London, entitled 'London Loves'. The opening film was Charles Urban's Living London, fresh from its showing at Pordenone. However, a re-examination of the evidence now indicates that the film in the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia is not a ten-minute fragment from the 1904 Urban film, but rather half (parts one and four) of the similar Urban film, The Streets of London, released in 1906. It is just as stunning a film as before, and scarcely less innovative, but two years younger. Extracts are available to view on the Daily Telegraph site. (October 2008)

Living London at Pordenone
One of the highlights of this year's Pordenone Silent Film Festival was Living London, an eleven-minute section of Charles Urban's forty-minute documentary of London scenes, filmed in 1904. The film was shown as part of the Corrick Collection, films collected and exhibited by New Zealand touring entertainers the Corrick family, and now held by the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia. The film gives us a vivid, mobile and creative picture of London life, moving eastward from Westminster to the City. In form it represents a key step on the road to the documentary, as what would previously have been a series of independent short actuality films evolves into a pre-composed programme on a larger theme. (October 2008)

Europa Film Treasures
Europa Film Treasures is a new online archive of rarities from European film archives, put together by the enterprising Lobster Films of Paris. The wide selection of films covers actualities, newsreels, comedies, dramas, animation, instructional films and more, silent and sound. One of the films included is Walter Booth's The Airship Destroyer, a fascinating example of early science fiction (Britain is in navded by bomb-dropping airships) made for the Charles Urban Trading Company in 1909. The print comes from the Deutsche Kinemathek and is listed on the site under its German title, Der Luftkrieg der Zukunft. (June 2008)

The Unseen World
A new book and exhibition are highlighting the pioneering popularisation of science through film done by Charles Urban and his talented collaborators Francis Martin Duncan and Percy Smith. The book by Timothy Boon, a curator at the Science Museum, is Films of Fact: A History of Science in Documentary Films and Television. The book thoughtfully explores the history of the presentation of science through film, from 1903 to the 1960s, and starts with the work of Urban and Duncan, creating the Unseen World show at the Alhambra in London, where startled audiences were introduced to a hitherto invisible world through micro-cinematography. Smith followed Duncan, using time-lapse cinematography and other painstaking techniques, combined with crowd-pleasing trickery in films such as The Balancing Bluebottle. A complementary Films of Fact exhibition is running at the Science Museum until February 2009. (May 2008)

Urban films online
A number of Charles Urban productions are now available online. The British Film Institute has a YouTube website with six Urban titles, and the BFI's Screenonline has several titles, though these are only accessible to registered schools, colleges and libraries in the UK. A new section of this site, Films, now lists all these titles and links directly to the films themselves. (March 2008)

Kinemacolor revived
On 25 February a screening of Kinemacolor films was held at the British Film Institute's J. Paul Getty Conservation Centre, Berkhamsted, using an original Kinemacolor projector loaned from Wirral Museum. The event was organised by film archivists David Cleveland and Brian Pritchard. Kinemacolor is very seldom shown in its correct form - that is, the black-and-white films run at double speed through a projector equipped with rotating red and green filter. A report on the event can be found on The Bioscope. (February 2008)

Colourful Stories
2008 sees the centenary of the first public exhibition of Kinemacolor. To mark the centenary The Bioscope, sister blog to this site, is running a year-long history of colour cinematography in the silent era, with particular emphasis on Kinemacolor, its antecedents and rivals. See the Series section of the site for all in the 'Colourful Stories' series as they appear. (January 2008)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil
Sadly, the British Film Institute recently examined what has been long believed to be a single reel from the four-reel British Kinemacolor feature film, The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1914) and has discovered that it is not that film, nor is it a Kinemacolor production. The film is in the record books as the first ever colour feature film, but it also now goes down in other records as yet another lost Kinemacolor film. (January 2008)

2007

Early Discourses on Colour and Cinema
A really excellent thesis on the history, function and meaning of early motion picture colour processes, especially Kinemacolor, is available for downloading online. Eirik Frisvold Hanssen's thesis for the University of Stockholm is entitled Early Discourses on Colour and Cinema: Origins, Functions, Meanings. It is a historical and theoretical examination of motion picture colour processes 1909-1935, and it contextualises Kinemacolor within a broader history and analysis of colour, while remaining very sound on the purely technological side of things. Its centrepiece is a detailed study of the 1912 Kinemacolor catalogue and its representation of the idea of colour. The thesis is freely available from Stockholm University; Hanssen's book based on the thesis is also available from Coronet Books, or it can be ordered via the US book site Barnes & Noble. (June 2007)

Kinemacolor chapter
I have put up a chapter from my thesis, 'Something More than a Mere Picture Show': Charles Urban and the Early Non-Fiction Film in Great Britain and America, 1897-1925 on my personal website, at http://www.lukemckernan.com/research.html#urban. It's chapter three, on the history of Kinemacolor, and it is downloadable as a PDF. To keep the file size down, I have removed all illustrations, so anyone interested in citing it should please note that the page references have changed from the original thesis. (May 2007)

Projection Box Essay Awards
Early film and pre-cinema publishers The Projection Box have announced a new award for essays on projected and moving images to 1915. The aims of this award are to encourage new research and new thinking into any historical, artistic or technical aspect of projected and moving images up to 1915; and to promote engaging, accessible, and imaginative work. The first prize of £250 is for an essay of between 5,000 and 8,000 words (including notes).The deadline for entries is 18 January 2008. The winning essay will also be published in an issue of Early Popular Visual Culture (Routledge). At the discretion of the judges, two runners-up will each receive books and CD-Roms of their choice (published by The Projection Box), to the value of £100. Further information from www.pbawards.co.uk. (May 2007)

Living London
A copy of the Charles Urban Trading Company's 1904 film Living London has been found at the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia. Early film scholar Professor Ian Christie found the ten-minute section of the original forty-minute record of London life and showed a tape of it at the opening of the London Screen Study Collection at Birkbeck, University of London on April 17th. The film is a travelogue of London, with marvellous attention to detail, skilfully edited and full of motion. Urban experimented with extended actualities at the time, putting together what previously would have been individual films into extended records of forty minutes or more. Few such composite actualities survive, and none before now made by Urban, which makes this film a key discovery. Another intriguing fact is that Living London was exhibited in Australia by showmen John and Nevin Tait, who made the world's first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) on the proceeds. (April 2007)

The Bioscope
The Bioscope is a new information resource for early and silent cinema, in blog format. The Bioscope aims to keep you up-to-date on news, information, events, documents, publications, discoveries and anything else on early and silent cinema (which include the 'pre-cinema' and Victorian cinema fields). Contributions are supplied by invited registered users only (though anyone can add comments to the posts), but access may be widened eventually. The web address is http://bioscopic.wordpress.com, where those with appropriate news readers can subscribe to the RSS news feed. The Bioscope of course takes its name from the projector (also used as a term for a camera, fairground show, cinema and the name of a British film trade journal) made famous by Charles Urban. (February 2007)

2006

Charles Urban on YouTube
Charles Urban has made it onto the video site YouTube, albeit in the unlikely guise of a Korean-Canadian student with glasses and a curly, blonde wig. G.A. Smith also features in an entertaining school exercise on the invention of colour cinematography, made by Alex M. Chong. The video can be seen here. (November 2006)

The Battle of the Somme
A digital restoration of the documentary feature The Battle of the Somme was premiered on 22 October at the Royal Festival Hall, London, with a new score by Laura Rossi, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. The film has been recognised by UNESCO's 'Memory of the World' register as a documentary record of global significance. The film was taken by Geoffrey Malins and J.B. MacDowell for the British Topical Committee for War Films and edited by Charles Urban, whose idea it was to release the material at feature length. Twenty million people (almost half the population of Britain at the time) saw the film, which gave them an unprecedented picture of the experience of the British forces on the Western Front. For further information, see here. (October 2006)

Spirograph auction
An extremely rare example of an Urban Spirograph is coming up for auction on 18 November, to be sold by WestLicht Photographica auctions. Invented by Theodore Brown and further developed by Henry Joy, the Spirograph was a motion picture viewer using a disk rather than film. It was developed by Urban over 1920-1923 with the hope of making a major impact on the growing non-theatrical market, but his business collapsed before he could market the Spirograph properly, and examples of the machine and its disks are now rare. This example comes with some disks and derives from the Spira collection of photographic equipment. The estimate is 30,000-40,000 Euros. For further details, visit www.westlicht-auction.com. (October 2006)

Moving Pictures exhibition
A touring exhibition on the rise of the film business in London is visiting archives and libraries around London. Having begun in Camden, the Moving Pictures exhibition moving to Hornsey Library (1 September-10 November), and then Hampstead Museum (17 November-mid-January 2007). The exhibition is based on the research undertaken for the 'London Project' (see news below), and is accompanied by lectures and screenings. For further details, see here. (August 2006)

The London Project - new web address
The London Project database of film businesses and cinemas in London before the First World War (see February news below) now has a new web address: http://londonfilm.bbk.ac.uk. (July 2006)

Charles Urban on CD
The Projection Box has published a CD of Charles Urban catalogues, brochures and promotional material. The contents include the Charles Urban Trading Company's 1906 catalogue, the booklet The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State (portions of which are reproduced on this site), Henry Joy's Book of Instruction of Operators of Kinemacolor Appliances (1910), the short booklet The Cinematograph in Operative Surgery (c.1906), promotional pages for Kinemacolor presentations from The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (1912-1913), and a brochures displaying Charles Urban Trading Company posters (c.1906). It is a marvellous collection, and an enterprising way of making such rare documents available to researchers. The price is £12.50 (plus £1 UK postage). For further details, visit http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~s-herbert/urbancd.htm. (May 2006)

The London Project
A database of film businesses and cinemas in London before the First World War has been published by the AHRC Centre for British Film and Television Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. Its year-long 'London Project' investigated the nature of the film business in London 1894-1914 and the main output of the research is a database, which includes a map of London boroughs linked to database results. There are several businesses associated with Charles Urban. The database is currently available from a temporary URL: london.indigofour.co.uk. (February 2006)

New look and address for Urban site
This website has had a complete overhaul in content and design. New features include many extra pictures, including an image gallery, archive documents, the catalogue description of the famous Delhi Durbar films, and a 'top twenty' Urban films. The basic design comes courtesy of the Open Source Web Design site, to whom (and to designer Andreas Viklund) many thanks are due. The site also now has a new URL, at long last moving to the simple name of www.charlesurban.com. (February 2006)

2005

Anima no more
Sadly, the very best site on the web for chronophotography, optical toys and pre-cinema generally is no more. Charl Lucassen's Anima has been taken down, owing to problems over the reuse of some images and the animations which were the site's highlight. (November 2005)

Kinemacolor online
The British Film Institute's Screenonline service is releasing huge amount of archive film online from the National Film and Television Archive. There is a biographical entry on Charles Urban and a number of Urban films available as streamed video, including three Kinemacolor titles: Tartans of Scottish Clans, Women Draped in Patterned Handkerchiefs and Pageant of New Romney, Hythe and Sandwich. These test films do not show Kinemacolor at its best, but they are among the very few Kinemacolor films to survive in Britain at all. The online moving image material on Screenonline is only available to schools, public libraries, colleges and universities in the UK, through a registration scheme. (March 2005)

Visual Delights III
Early Popular Visual Culture (formerly Living Pictures) in association with the National Fairground Archive and the University of Leeds will hold a third event examining the use and exploitation of the projected image within the fields of entertainment, education, science and the domestic environment. The theme of this three-day conference is Magic and Illusion and will be a combination of academic papers, performance and film screenings. The conference incorporates both academic and non-academic historians, collectors and performers and will to bring together the worlds of photography, film and mass visual culture to a wider and more inclusive audience. The conference will take place at the University of Sheffield between 15 and 17 July 2005. (February 2005)

2004

Urban's papers move to Bradford
Charles Urban's papers, a major source for early film historians and the leading research resource for the study of his life and work, have moved from their previous home in the Science Museum Library in London to the National Museum of Photography Film and Television in Bradford (which is managed by the Science Museum). This will place Urban's papers on the same site as the Urban film equipment held in the Bradford Museum. (December 2004)

Giornate del Cinema Muto
The programme for the annual festival of silent film, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, traditionally held at Pordenone in Italy but currently hosted by the nearby town of Sacile, has been announced. Themes for this year include Dziga Vertov, Britain's 'Forgotten Men' (including Anthony Asquith), the eighth year of The Griffith Project, filmmakers in New Jersey, the conclusion of the Mitchell & Kenyon project, and silent filmmaking today. The festival runs 9-16 October. For further details, visit the festival website. (August 2004)

Who's Who of Victorian Cinema
A new website has been launched, based on the 1996 publication Who's Who of Victorian Cinema, edited by Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan. The site is a biographical guide to figures behind and in front of the camera in the very first years of motion pictures. Among its 300 entries are Charles Urban and his contemporaries. The site has contributions from twenty-six experts in the field, and include many extra resources additional to the original book, as well as having updated all entries and added new names. The address is www.victorian-cinema.net. (February 2004).

Living Pictures colour issue
A special issue of the journal Living Pictures: The Journal of the Popular and the Projected Image before 1914 has been published, on the theme of colour. There are essays on colour in silent film, the magic lantern and colour, dancer Loie Fuller, the Lumière Autochrome photographic process, and the Pathécolor film process. The issue also has a reprint of Charles Urban's key 1921 paper, Terse History of Natural Colour Cinematography, published here for the very first time. The journal is published by Flicks Books and has been edited by Luke McKernan. (January 2004).

2003

Spirograph at Sacile
A restoration of the film images from an Urban Spirograph was featured at this year's Giornate del Cinema Muto at Sacile, Italy. The Spirograph, a system of showing films on an acetate disc with the images arranged in a concentric spiral, was invented by Theodore Brown in 1907 and developed for Urban by Henry Joy. Urban planned to commercialise the Spirograph in the early 1920s, but his business collapsed before he was able to do so, and Spirograph projectors and disk are now very rare. The George Eastman House restoration is entitled Man's Best Friends and shows a number of dogs. George Eastman House has incorrectly dated the film as c.1913; it can only date from 1921 or later. (October 2003)

Taking to the Air at Sacile
This year's Giornate Del Cinema Muto, held at Sacile, Italy in October, will include a special programme, Taking to the Air: Early Film and Early Flight, in celebration of the centernary of man-powered flight. The show traces the history of aviation to 1914, emphasising the many connections between the pioneers of flight and the pioneers of film. Among the films will be a record of the 1909 Rheims air meeting filmed by Charles Urban's Eclipse company. The show will be presented by Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan. (July 2003).

IWM catalogue online
A very welcome new online resources, for early film studies and much more besides, is the Imperial War Museum's catalogue of its film, sound and documentation collections, now available from www.iwmcollections.org.uk. The catalogue interface is hardly user-friendly, but the range of content information is exceptional. The catalogue features extensive First World War entries, including a detailed description of Urban's 1915 feature documentary Britain Prepared. (April 2003)

Urban Travelogues in Nottingham
The sixth British Silent Cinema Weekend is taking place at the Broadway cinema, Nottingham, 3-7 April 2003, and is entitled Location! Location! Location! Landscape, Place and Travel in British Cinema before 1930. It will include selections of Charles Urban travelogues of Britain, and on Sunday 6th there will be a presentation of Taking to the Air, a film programme celebrating the centenary of powered flight and its connections with early cinema, presented by Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan. The programme includes Urban films of some of the first British aviation meetings. For further information, click here. (February 2003)

The World in 1900 visits Hastings
The World in 1900 is playing at the St Mary in the Castle Arts Centre, Hastings on 20 March. The presenters and Frank Gray and Luke McKernan, with music by Neil Brand, whose website www.neilbrand.com gives information on the career and upcoming performances of Britain's leading silent film pianist. (February 2003)

CD-ROMs from The Projection Box
The Projection Box, publishers of books on early and pre-cinema topics, have moved into the production of CD-ROMs. Their first title is Magic Lantern Inventions: 75 US Patents 1864-1904. It comprises facsimiles (in PDF format) of the patents to 75 inventions from the US Patent Office, patented over a period of forty years. The CD-ROM is cross-platform (for PC or MAC) and costs £12.50 for the UK and $20.50 shipped to any US address. For further details, click here. (February 2003)

Kinemacolor discussion
A transcript from a discussion held at the National Film Theatre in September on the television series The British Empire in Colour (see below) is available on the BFI website. The section relating to Kinemacolor and the discovery of the Delhi Durbar fragment is here. (February 2003)

AFI Silent Catalogue online
The American Film Institute has made its catalogue of silent films freely available over the Internet, at http://www.afi.com/catalog/silentHome.aspx?s=1. This covers all films released in America 1893 to 1911, and all feature films releases thereafter to the end of the 1920s. It is searchable by title, name, character name, company, genre, subject and source. Charles Urban's films can be found mostly as Urban-Eclipse releases or as distributed by George Kleine. The remainder of the AFI's catalogues of American film production are available online to AFI members only. (January 2003)

Acrobatic Fly at Sacile
A particular success at this year's Giornate Del Cinema Muto, held at Sacile, Italy, was a recreation of a nickelodeon show, mixing films with live acts and song slides. The show included the Urban film The Acrobatic Fly (1908, original title The Balancing Bluebottle), filmed by Percy Smith, a film which still startles for its demonstration of what objects a fly is able to bear and juggle. (October 2002)

2002

Delhi Durbar on videotape and DVD
The surviving Kinemacolor film of the 1911 Delhi Durbar can now be purchased on videotape or DVD, because the television series The British Empire in Colour in which it features (see story below) is now available for sale in the UK. For details, click here. (October 2002)

The British Empire in Kinemacolor
The recently-discovered section from the Kinemacolor film of the 1911 Delhi Durbar (see news story below) is featured prominently in the forthcoming three-part television series The British Empire in Colour. The film is featured in Episode One, on India, which will be broadcast on ITV on 15 September. The programme also includes newly-discovered Kinemacolor film of the Trooping of the Colour. The programme dates this as 1906, which is very improbable since the system was only patented in November 1906, and it is more likely to be the ceremony from 1911, which is known to have been filmed. The series will also be released next month on videotape and DVD. (August 2002)

Who's Who of Victorian Cinema
The biographical reference book Who's Who of Victorian Cinema, edited by Stephen Herbert and Luke McKernan and originally published by the British Film Institute in 1996, is now available from The Projection Box, priced £8.50. The book contains biographies of over 250 key figures from the earliest years of cinema across the world, including Charles Urban. (June 2002)

Kinemacolor Theatre sign
A remarkable stained glass sign for a Kinemacolor theatre has been uncovered in Vancouver, Canada. The Kinemacolor Theatre was located on 603 Granville, Vancouver, opening on 24 February 1913 and closing in 1914 when Kinemacolor's Canadian business ended. The theatre changed its name to the Colonial and the sign was still visible in 1972, when the theatre was torn down. Somehow the sign ended up at a local steak restaurant, which relocated recently, with the sign rescued from a demolition crew by a local antiques dealer. The sign was probably made to match existing décor, rather than conforming to any design dictated by the Canadian Kinemacolor business itself. For the Vancouver Sun report, click here. (April 2002)

British Silent Cinema Weekend
The fifth British Silent Cinema Weekend takes place at the Broadway cinema, Nottingham, 5-7 April 2002, and is entitled Scene Stealing: Investigating British Silent Cinema and its Sources. It will include (on the 8th) an illustrated talk by Oliver Gaycken on early scientific films, including those of Urban and Percy Smith. Further details are here. (March 2002)

New look for Charles Urban
The Charles Urban, Motion Picture Pioneer website has now been redesigned and revamped, with hopefully a clearer front page, a site map, new biographies, and small revisions throughout. (January 2002)

2001

Second Visual Delights conference
The second Visual Delights conference takes place at the University of Sheffield and the Picturedrome Cinema in Holmfirth between 12 and 14 July 2002. Organised by the National Fairground Archive and the University of Teeside, the conference will examine the use and exploitation of the projected image before 1914 within the fields of entertainment, education, science and the domestic environment. The conference will feature restorations of the Mitchell & Kenyon company and a day devoted to the Bamforth Company. A paper on Charles Urban and the invention of Kinemacolor is promised. (December 2001)

Rare Kinemacolor catalogue purchased
An extremely rare copy of the main Kinemacolor catalogue of 1912-13 came up for auction on eBay and was purchased by Luke McKernan, author of this website. The catalogue, of which only three other copies are known to be extant, was discovered in a disused theatre in Australia. Material from the catalogue will be added to this site in due course. (November 2001)

Boer War catalogue online
The BFI is gradually putting more of its catalogue records online by putting up the contents of catalogues previously published in book form. A welcome addition is its Boer War catalogue, which includes detailed descriptions and background information on its considerable holdings of the Boer War (1899-1902), including the films made for Urban and the Warwick Trading Company by John Benett-Stanford, Edgar Hyman and Joe Rosenthal. (November 2001)

The World in 1900 visits Scotland
The latest screenings of the compilation film The World in 1900 will be at the Edinburgh Film House on 3 December 2001 and Dundee Contemporary Arts on 4 December. Presented by Frank Gray and Luke McKernan, with live music by Neil Brand, the tour will begin with extra Scottish items for these two screenings. For further information, contact Janet McBain at the Scottish Screen Archive. (October 2001)

Fifth British Silent Cinema Weekend
The fifth British Silent Cinema Weekend will take place at the Broadway cinema, Nottingham, 5-7 April 2002. This year's theme is Scene Stealing: Investigating British Silent Cinema and its Sources, and the Weekend will look particularly at literary, dramatic and theatrical adapatations, and films inspired by other films and genres. The call for papers and further details can be found here. (October 2001)

Delhi Durbar discovery!
A section from the long lost Kinemacolor film of the 1911 Delhi Durbar has been discovered. The film shows King George V reviewing troops during his tour of the country at the time of the celebrations to mark his accession as King and Emperor of India. It was found in Moscow by film researcher Adrian Wood working on a television series on the British Empire in colour. Wood was previously behind the highly successful television series The Second World War in Colour and Britain at War in Colour. The original Delhi Durbar film lasted over two and a half hours, and was the film sensation of 1912. The two reels that have emerged show military scenes that took place outside the main Delhi Durbar ceremony, and the more spectacular aspects of the original film remain lost. But this is a very exciting discovery, and it raises hopes that the rest of what was Charles Urban's greatest triumph may emerge some day. A confused and misleading report on the find can be read on the Electronic Telegraph. [Link no longer works] (February 2001)

British Silent Cinema Weekend
The fourth British Silent Cinema Weekend takes place at the Broadway, Nottingham, 6-8 April 2001, with the theme this year being "Crossing the Pond: The 'Special Relationship' Between Britain and America". The Weekend is a combination of short papers, screenings and special presentations. Films to be shown include The Informer (1929), Kipps (1921) and Exit Smiling (1926), and special presentations including Ian Christie on exporting 'quality' British films and Phil Carli on Harold Shaw. (January 2001)

2000

Major New Online Research Resources
Two major resources for the study of early film have been made available online. The US Patent and Trademark Office website contains every single US patent, from 1790 to the present day, as image files. Pre-1971 records require the researcher to know the patent number, but this is an outstanding resource (the US patent for Kinemacolor can be found under PN 941,960). Equally welcome is the publication online of the BFI National Library entire book catalogue. The BFI's book collection is unrivalled, and the catalogue itself is a model of clarity. (December 2000)

Titanic on Film
A new book on the ill-fated liner Titanic and its relation with the cinema of the time has been written by Stephen Bottomore and is published by The Projection Box. The Titanic and Silent Film covers the contemporary fiction and very few actuality films made of the liner, and some of the film figures on board, as well as revealing that Charles Urban negotiated unsuccessfully with Harland and Wolff to film the construction of the Titanic. For further details, click here. (November 2000)

Kinemacolor at Sacile
The George Eastman House restoration of the Kinemacolor Company of America's The Scarlet Letter (1913) was shown at the Giornate del Cinema Muto at Sacile on 19 October 2000, in the same week as the presentation of The World in 1900. The film is one reel from an original three-reel adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, and is a rare surviving example of a Kinemacolor fiction film. It stars Linda Arvidson (Mrs D.W. Griffith) and was directed by David Miles. The restored film was not shown on a Kinemacolor projector and instead has been printed with alternate red and green tinted frames. Although this produces a full colour effect when shown at 32fps, ironically in this form it is rather closer to the colour system employed by Urban's great rival, William Friese-Greene. The film was restored as part of the Treasures of the American Film Archives, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts to finance the restoration of a selection of American 'orphan' films. For further information on the Endowment click here. (October 2000)

The World in 1900
The British Film Institute has produced a touring show for 2000, entitled The World in 1900. Presented by Frank Gray and Luke McKernan, with live music by Neil Brand, it is a tour around the world in words, music and films made in or before 1900, starting in London with the funeral of Queen Victoria, and travelling through Europe, Africa, India, China, America and back to Britain. The show (which features several productions by Urban's Warwick Trading Company) had its successful debut in April 2000 at the British Silent Film Weekend in Nottingham, and in May played to an enthusiastic full house at the Brighton Festival. The show was similarly popular at this year's Giornate del Cinema Muto, the Pordenone silent film festival held at Sacile, Italy 14-22 October, at the London Film Festival in November, and at the Cambridge Arts Picture House, February 2001. (October 2000)

Living Pictures
Living Pictures: The Journal of the Popular and Projected Image before 1914 is a new journal devoted to multidisciplinary studies in popular forms of visual entertainment before 1914. The journal promises a very welcome cross-media approach, covering such varied topics as early cinema, magic lanterns, optical toys, the popular photographic image, cartoons, panoramas, fairground entertainments and image-related advertising. Two issues per year are planned, one general, the other on a special subject or theme, with the first issue promised in Spring 2001. The first special issue, on colour, will appear in Autumn 2002. (October 2000)

Urban memoirs donated to Science Museum
The original copy of Charles Urban's unfinished memoirs (see below) has been donated by his family to the Science Museum Library, which already holds Urban's substantial collection of papers, which he himself donated to the Science Museum in 1937. The volume of memoirs will be repaired and then made available to researchers. (March 2000)

1999

Urban's lost memoirs now published
Charles Urban spent the last few months of his life writing his memoirs. Unfinished at his death, they remained in private hands until their discovery in 1998. Now edited and annotated by Luke McKernan, with an afterword that describes the later part of Urban's career that he was unable to cover before his death, they have now been published by The Projection Box as A Yank in Britain: The Lost Memoirs of Charles Urban, Film Pioneer. Visit The Projection Box's site for information on how to order this unique document on early cinema history, or write to The Projection Box, 12 High Street, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3EY, United Kingdom, fax (44)(0)1424 204144. Or simply order it through Amazon.co.uk. Click here for extracts from the memoirs. (November 1999)

Lost G.A. Smith film discovered
A previously-lost film from 1897 by trick film specialist G.A. Smith, a close associate of Urban's for several years, and the inventor of Kinemacolor, has been identified at the BFI's National Film and Television Archive. The X-Rays features a courting couple (played by Tom Green and Laura Bayley, who was Smith's wife) who are secretly filmed by a man carrying a camera prominently marked 'X RAYS'. They are instantly turned into skeletons. The film was originally distributed by Urban's Warwick Trading Company. (October 1999)

Urban at Sacile
Two recently-discovered Charles Urban Trading Company films featured at the 1999 Giornate Del Cinema Muto, the world's premier silent film festival, normally held at Pordenone, Italy, but held for the first time in nearby Sacile. The films are the dazzling (if horrifying) Hunting the Red Deer with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds (1904), filmed by H.M. Lomas, and Tunny Fishing in Tunisia (1905), and were discovered by the remarkable Lobster Films of Paris. (October 1999)