Edison’s early experiments in film were often pretty scandalous even by today’s standards. There was the time he recorded his favorite body-building stripper, rather gracelessly disrobing upon the trapeze, right down to her massive Victorian underwear. There was also Chinese Opium Den, from which only one frame survives, but you can guess the content. There’s even the time he filmed himself electrocuting Topsy the elephant. So you have sex, drugs and violence, all right there at the beginning of cinema.
Edison really knew what the public wanted, so obviously he made a cat video!
In 1894 Edison filmed “Boxing Cats” at his Black Maria Studio, the charming results of which you see here. Why boxing cats? The Library of Congress explains that this was a relatively popular form of live entertainment for the time:
“The performance was part of Professor Henry Welton’s ‘cat circus,’ which toured the United States both before and after appearing in Edison’s film. Performances included cats riding small bicycles and doing somersaults, with the boxing match being the highlight of the show.”
The Library of Congress’s summary of the film is just “A very interesting and amusing subject.” Can’t argue with that!