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An Innovator and a Dreamer

Arriving in the United States during its centennial year, Siegmund Lubin (ca. 1851-1923) peddled eyeglasses before settling in Philadelphia in 1885. He began making magic lantern slides as a side venture in his optical shop. After viewing early motion picture demonstrations, he was hooked on the new medium. Soon Lubin was marketing his own camera equipment, opening theaters, and distributing 3,000 films produced at locations across the country.

Lubin believed film would transform human experience and, decades before television, predicted that the day’s news would be delivered to homes each evening on a film reel. He dreamed of adding sound to motion pictures, and produced recorded audio tracks for his films long before “talkies.” Lubin introduced film into scientific education, providing doctors free access to his studios for creating experimental and training films. He employed hundreds of people in a creative, fun atmosphere and together they helped shape the motion picture industry.

Eyeglasses made by Siegmund Lubin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1890
National Museum of American Jewish History, 2017.10.1
Gift of Wilma Forman in memory of Joseph Gartenberg