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C. Francis Jenkins (1867-1934)

C. Francis Jenkins

Charles Francis Jenkins was born in the country north of Dayton, Ohio, of Quaker parents, and spent most of his boyhood on a farm north of Richmond near Fountain City. He attended Earlham College and then traveled through the western United States. He went to Washington, D.C. early in 1890 and served as secretary to Sumner I. Kimball, U.S. Life Saving Service, resigning in 1895 to take up inventing as a profession. He built the prototype of the motion picture projector and later produced the first photographs by radio and developed a mechanism for viewing distant scenes by radio, or, as we now call it, television. He had more than 400 patents for a huge variety of devices. He was an enthusiastic photographer and aviator and many of his inventions related to these fields.

In 1894, Jenkins staged the first “movie” show. He shipped his motion picture projector, which he called a phantoscope, from Washington to Richmond. In the jewelry store of his cousin, Charles Jenkins, at 726 Main, he projected pictures of a dancer performing a “butterfly dance” onto the wall. Outside that building today is a plaque commemorating this event.