The Holland Brothers

Robert Gutteridge

In 2000, Bob Gutteridge published "Magic Moments", his illustrated history of the first twenty years of moving pictures in Toronto. Early in that book we discover the Holland brothers of Ottawa. These gentlemen, agents for Edison's Phonograph, enthusiastically embraced Edison's latest invention, the Kinetoscope or peep show and briefly its successor, the Vitascope, which projects a moving image on a wall or screen.

Robert Gutteridge
The Holland Brothers

Bob is currently working on a new book tentatively titled "Lost Leaders" which tells the story of six Canadian families involved in the beginnings of cinema in the Dominion. One chapter will expand on the Holland brothers and their association with Edison and the marketing of the early moving picture apparatus.

photo by R. Lansdale
Ready to go The way to Boston and Cambridge Arriving at Harvard At the Baker facilities Registering at the Baker Getting a helping hand
Busy at work

In the course of his research, Bob discovered that the Baker Library of the Harvard Business School had a collection of the Holland brothers letters and ephemera, but the material had to be viewed in person at the Baker. To assist Bob the society awarded him a small research grant, and this evening, he reported back on "How I Used My PHSC Grant", giving some interesting anecdotes and insights into the early days of moving picture entertainment (and travel to the Boston area). 

Old sign on the Victoria Theatre in Toronto

Edison sold off territories in the US and Canada to businessmen who bought Edison equipment and rented Edison short film strips to run at venues and for fees set by the owner of each territory. The Holland Brothers, with the east coast of the US as their territory, had great success with the Kinetoscope peep show. They opened the first such show in New York City in 1895. 

Bob describes the arrival of the Mutoscope and Biograph which competed with the Kinetoscope by projecting the image making it possible for images from one machine to be viewed by many paying customers at the same time. Edison countered with the Vitascope which he marketed but didn't invent.

 Bob covers the evolution of the entertainment industry business plan in the days before Hollywood: the headaches and challenges of relying on electrical apparatus before standards and ubiquitous access to electricity. 

From New York, he traces the efforts of the Holland brothers to introduce the Kinetoscope and Vitascope to Canadians including some of the hilarious disasters that ensue when marketing exceeds technical capability and business ethics. 

See issue 30-5 of Photographic Canadiana for a more detailed article. When Bob's book is published, you will be able to read the whole story of the Holland Brothers!


Location of first Kinetoscope peep show in New York
inside a peep show showing the flip cards stack
Showing the film loop in a Kinetoscope
First ad for Kinetoscope in Toronto - along with X-rays! Projector portion of a Vitascope Sketch of a Vitascope with illumination and film holder in place Ad for Vitascope show in Toronto Sketch of a Vitascope in operation

The images shown on this page were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 and adjusted and sized in Photoshop CS. Hovering over an image will show its title. Clicking an image brings up an enlarged version.

Unless otherwise noted, images are copyright Robert Gutteridge. Portrait of Robert Gutteridge is copyright Robert Lansdale and may be freely used if the source is credited to him. Questions? Please contact me at

Robert Carter

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