The Black Maria
Edison National Historic Site, NJ
This replica movie studio symbolizes the early motion picture industry. Called the “revolving photograph building” when constructed in 1892-93, the studio was soon nicknamed the “Black Maria” by Edison’s employees - probably because it resembled police vehicles of the day. The original Black Maria stood near today’s water tower.
The Edison Company used the Black Maria to produce short films, ranging in length from a few seconds to two minutes. In 1901, Edison opened a new studio in Manhattan, then moved film production to the Bronx in 1905. No longer needed, the original Black Maria was demolished in 1903. This replica was built in 1954.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment • Industry & Commerce. A significant historical year for this entry is 1901.
Location. 40° 47.059′ N, 74° 14.025′ W. Marker is in West Orange, New Jersey, in Essex County. Marker is on Main Street, on the right when
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Black Maria Replica (here, next to this marker); Making Movies (a few steps from this marker); Edison Cement Slab (a few steps from this marker); The Truck of the Second Commercial Electric Railroad Locomotive. (within shouting distance of this marker); The Courtyard (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas Edison’s West Orange Laboratory (within shouting distance of this marker); The Truck of the First Commercial Electric Railroad Locomotive. (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas Edison Statue (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in West Orange.
More about this marker. A picture of the Black Maria appears along the bottom of the marker, with a caption of “Edison’s employees opened the roof of the Black Maria and rotated it on wooden tracks to keep sunlight on the stage while filming.” Elsewhere on the marker are scenes from two films made by Edison. The set of pictures along the right side of the marker are from a film called “The Kiss (1896)” and includes the caption “John Rice and May Irwin came to West Orange to recreate this scene from their New York success, ‘The Widow Jones.’ Less than one minute long, The Kiss was one of the most popular – and daring – of the early motion pictures.” Another picture of boxers has a caption of “This 1894 prizefight between James J. ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett, in shorts, and Peter Courtney was staged and filmed in the original Black Maria.
Many years after the fight, Corbett recalled, ‘The Black Maria certainly did look like an old-fashioned police patrol wagon. We hadn’t been inside very long before most of us would have preferred a police patrol at that – for the little moveable studio was the hottest, most crowded place I have ever known.’”
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Take a tour of the markers found at the Laboratory Complex of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.
Also see . . .
1. Thomas Edison National Historical Park, New Jersey. Nation Park Service website. (Submitted on November 6, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)
2. “The Kiss (1896)” from "The Widow Jones.". Library of Congress. (Submitted on July 1, 2013, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)
3. 1894 prizefight between Corbett and Courtney.(Submitted on July 1, 2013, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)
Credits. This page was last revised on December 28, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 6, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 960 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on July 28, 2010, by R. C. of Shrewsbury, New Jersey. 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on November 6, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.