New Jersey is the home of many significant American firsts.

Did you know that New Jersey was the original Hollywood? The Garden State is the rightful birthplace of the American motion picture industry.

I first learned about this while reading about the life and times of Walt Disney. I tripped right over this fascinating New Jersey storyline.

New Jersey is the official birthplace of the American film industry. It all started in 1907, with the first film studio being built in 1909 in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Fort Lee actually became the first American film town. The entire population of Fort Lee worked in the motion picture business.

This makes Fort Lee the rightful birthplace of American cinema.

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This is where the story gets interesting. Why? How did the motion picture industry wind up in Hollywood?

New Jersey’s Thomas Edison held the motion picture patents. The movie industry made the decision to move from the East Coast to the West Coast in order to escape the patent monopoly that Edison held.

As it turned out, the 3,000-mile distance made it hard to enforce Edison’s motion picture patents company and the California courts were not sympathetic to Edison.

Land was much cheaper in California and it was a non-union town, so labor costs were able to be cut in half.

The beautiful, year-round California weather was also a factor in the move. California also had varied terrain, which was very conducive for creating movie sets and backdrops.

Inventor Edison had previously created America’s first movie studio, which he named “Black Maria,” which he built near West Orange, New Jersey.

With the help of his assistant, William Dickson, they created the kinetoscope, the early version of the film projector.

If you didn’t know it before … now you know the true story about how New Jersey was the motion picture capital of America and how it lost it to Hollywood, California.

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