The earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture, the Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze is a short film made by W. K. L. Dickson in January 1894 for advertising purposes. Often referred to as “Fred Ott’s Sneeze,” this is is one of the world’s earliest motion pictures and America’s best known early film production. The star is Fred Ott, an Edison employee known to his fellow workers in the laboratory for his comic sneezing and other gags. This item was received in the Library of Congress on January 9, 1894, as a copyright deposit from Dickson.
Two other Edison experimental films on the Library’s YouTube site – DICKSON GREETING (May 1891) and NEWARK ATHLETE (May or June 1891), predate The Sneeze. The Sneeze was submitted for copyright as 45 frames from the motion picture printed as positive prints on paper rather than as a reel of film. The prints were mounted on cardboard and submitted to the Copyright Office in this form. The video of the Sneeze on loc.gov and YouTube was later rephotographed and turned into a moving image from these mounted frames.