Toronto. Well, some time around the 1893 World’s fair in Chicago, Edison chose his employee Fred Ott for a movie experiment. Why Ott? Ott was notorious for his violent sneezes! On this occasion he needed a little help to “pull the trigger”.
The short movie of his sneeze went on to be famous as the very first movie close up. Douglas Collins wrote a coffee table size vanity press book called The Story of Kodak in 1990 which devotes page 79 to the epic sneeze. A biography of Eastman was published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins called simply “George Eastman: A Biography“. It was written by Elizabeth Brayer who had access to the Eastman papers at George Eastman House. Betsy was our speaker back in October 2007.
I dismissed any thought of Fred Ott until just the other day when Haligonian Jeff Ward dropped me a note. Jeff was one of the speakers last summer when we celebrated Canada 150. Jeff is writing a presentation on Blair, a contemporary of Eastman and also a Nova Scotian. Jeff’s research included a Library of Congress web site on Mr Ott and his famous sneeze. The date and film used are in conflict with the Kodak record as noted by Ms Brayer and Mr Collins. If you have sound proof of the date and film used, drop me a note. Perhaps the movie was recorded twice? Once before the Chicago fair and not used, and again the following year when the Kinetoscope apparatus was ready for use.
Meantime, Jeff has drawn up this detailed time line: