Printed Cards for Toy Phantoscope

Description (Brief)
Phantoscope roll composed of a set of printed cards with subjects of short motion pictures bound with metal springs. These reels were used in a movie viewing apparatus called the Phantoscope, invented by Charles Francis Jenkins. The roll's cards were printed by a half-tone process and show four different subjects: a train advancing, two girls jumping on a bed, an elephant show at a circus and a dog encountering a bear. The roll was mounted on a hand-cranked wheel, by which the viewer would animate the cards in the style of a flipbook.
The Early Cinema Film and Ephemera Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000038] includes over 50 pieces of notable motion picture film and more than 80 posters, photographs and other ephemeral objects from cinema’s early days. The collection’s film is primarily short lengths of motion picture film donated by inventors or industry groups to mark technological innovation. Charles Francis Jenkins, the co-inventor of the Vitascope projector, donated a short length of film showing William McKinley’s inauguration. Wallace Goold Levison and E. H. Amet, two early motion picture innovators, gave pieces of film, news clippings and business cards to mark their achievements in the technological development of the medium. The Society of Motion Picture Engineers, the leading trade association for motion picture workers, made two donations of early motion picture film samples, including examples of Biograph and early color motion pictures. Sound cinema pioneer Eugene Augustin Lauste’s scrapbooks and photographs illuminate his work to improve the motion picture as well as the early days of the industry. A portion of the film collection represents the work of pioneers like Charles Urban and August Plahn to perfect a natural and vibrant color for projected film.
The Collection also helps to illuminate the rise of the motion picture industry as a cultural and business phenomenon through ephemera. Posters promoting some of the earliest film exhibitions, the films of silent Western star William S. Hart, the 1930 re-release of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and features presented at Washington’s Trans-Lux theater illustrate the range of movie advertising from the earliest days of the cinema to the industry’s attempts to combat television competition in the 1950s. A group of photographs of theaters, 270 glass slides used to promote upcoming features and pieces of movie star memorabilia broaden the collection’s focus to that of cinema culture at its zenith of influence in American life.
This finding aid is one in a series documenting the PHC’s Early Cinema Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000018]. The cinema-related objects cover the range of technological innovation and popular appeal that defined the motion picture industry during a period in which it became the premier form of mass communication in American life, roughly 1885-1930. See also finding aids for Early Sound Cinema [COLL.PHOTOS.000040], Early Color Cinema [COLL.PHOTOS.000039], Early Cinema Equipment [COLL.PHOTOS.000037] and the Gatewood Dunston Collection [COLL.PHOTOS.000021].
Currently not on view
Jenkins Phantoscope Company
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
metal (overall material)
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Motion Pictures
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Popular Entertainment
Photo History Collection
Early Cinema Film Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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