Thomas Edison might be best known for the electric lightbulb, but he was also a connoisseur of strange short films. After inventing the kinetoscope, an early version of the film camera, he began to test the technology by recording a series of bizarre films*—including one of a disrobing trapeze artist and another featuring an elephant electrocution. In 1894, the first motion picture ever copyrighted was “Fred Ott’s Sneeze,” which, as the title suggests, is just a clip of one of Edison’s employees sneezing.
Among Edison’s cinematic oddities was “Boxing Cats,” filmed in his Black Maria Studio in New Jersey. The main attraction of Henry Welton’s “cat circus,” which also featured wonders like cats riding bicycles, these fighting felines were apparently quite popular in the U.S. at the time.
The footage—one of Edison’s firsts—is considered to be the first cat video ever recorded. (Well, cat short film. Video came later.) But even in 1894, Edison knew how to give the people what they wanted.
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*Correction: We originally referred to the cat films as “videos.” That’s a different technology.