Arrival of Emigrants [i.e. Immigrants], Ellis Island


This film, by Gottfried Wilhelm "Billy" Bitzer of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, was among the first films of this accomplished cameraman. It is reminiscent of contemporary films of Ellis Island shot by the Edison Manufacturing Company. It depicts scenes at the Immigration Depot and a nearby dock on Ellis Island. It appears to show, first, a group of immigrants lined up to board a vessel leaving the island, then another group arriving at the island and being directed off of the dock and into the depot by a uniformed official. Edison Manufacturing and Biograph were bitter rivals. Thomas Edison claimed sole propriety of the kinetoscope and thus all the rights to creation of moving pictures, even though his original machine was denied a patent in 1891 because it did not perform all the functions he claimed and could not project moving images in a continuous stream. Edison finally received a patent in 1897, but the wording of the patent was so vague that it gave Edison the rights to every motion picture device that ever had been or would be created. Biograph denounced it as a fraud in the U.S. Patent Office. In 1901, the Edison Company sued Biograph for patent infringement but lost. Biograph continued to make films and the legal battles continued for years to come.

Last updated: May 24, 2017