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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:692 1894-1897 R136

Raff and Gammon records

The Raff and Gammon records span the years 1894 to 1897 and represent the early records of the commercial development of the motion picture.


  • 1894-1897

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Volume 2 suffered from extensive water damage and many of the letters are difficult to read.


1.5 linear feet (3 boxes, 2 volumes)

The materials in the collection represent the early records of the commercial development of the motion picture from 1894 to 1896. Business was conducted as the Kinetoscope Company and the Vitascope Company. Materials include letterpress copybooks of outgoing correspondence primarily from Norma Raff on topics such as sale of the Kinetoscope, orders for films and machines, shares of stock in the company, negotiation of contracts, selling rights to exhibit the Vitascope in various states across the country (in which they had exclusive control), investments, and the development of the Vitascope. Correspondents include Thomas A. Edison, the Holland Brothers, Erastus A. Benson, Thomas Armat, and Thomas R. Lombard. The collection also contains correspondence files, daily shipping receipts, leases and other documents of the business and several companies and corporations involved, including the International Novelty Company of Council Bluffs, Iowa and the Kinetoscope Company of New York. Also included is a scrapbook of newspaper clippings related to the debut to the Vitascope. Also includes programs outlining the scenes shown on the Vitascope, and an announcement regarding the reduction in price of Kinetoscopes and Kineto-Phones.

Biographical / Historical

Norman C. Raff and Frank R. Gammon were acting as agents for Thomas A. Edison in the promotion and distribution of both the Kinetoscope and the Vitascope. Norman C. Raff of Canton, Ohio, was a senior member of the firm of Raff & Gammon, which launched the business career of the motion picture in its “peep show” days in 1894 via the Kinetoscope. Machines and film were sold outright by the Kinetoscope Company and short films were exhibited in Kinetoscope parlors. The ability to entertain only one patron at a time led to the rapid decline of the Kinetoscope and spurred innovation of screen projection. The newly named Vitascope Company, started the screen on its world career with Thomas Armat’s projection machine. Known as the Vitascope, it was manufactured in Edison’s plant using Edison film.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Terry Ramsaye.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2017 By: Baker Library Special Collections Staff
Link to catalog
Raff and Gammon. Raff and Gammon Records, 1894-1897: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University Repository

Baker Library Special Collections holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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