The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

xxxxxxxxxxx

Early Life

Charles Francis Jenkins was born to Quaker parents in 1868 just north of Dayton, Ohio, and grew up on a farm near Richmond, Indiana. He went to country school, high school, and then to Earlham College. Jenkins left for Washington, D.C. in 1890 where he worked as a secretary at the U.S Life Saving Service. A year later, he began experimenting with movie film, and concentrated on developing the Phantoscope, his own prototype of the motion picture projector.

Jenkins claimed to stage the first "movie" show in 1894 at a jewelry store in Richmond, Indiana, that was owned by his cousin, Charles. Jenkins had his motion picture projector shipped from Washington to Richmond. He projected pictures of a dancer performing a "butterfly dance" onto the wall. Today, there is a plaque outside that building at 726 Main commemorating the event.

In 1895, Jenkins quit his job to pursue invention as a full-time profession.