America’s Cup Had an Edison Connection…

While doing research for another project of mine, I stumbled upon something way cool. In a Voice of America article about the America’s Cup there was a section titled, “From Edison to Ellison.” Huh? Edison as in Thomas Edison? Connected to sailing? How so?

Apparently, he went to Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1899 to capture the decisive moments of the race on film.


From J.S. Johnston Collection

Per the article, “The reel helped introduce Americans to motion pictures. Edison set a standard that still exists for covering big athletic events.”

Racing in the Cup that year was the “Columbia” which was owned by banking titan, J.P. Morgan. Morgan sailed out of the New York Yacht Club, home to the trophy since it had been won from Britain in 1851 by the schooner America, the Cup’s namesake.

It gets more “curiouser.”

Morgan was an early financial backer of Edison (previous to Edison’s General Electric days).

Check this out… On YouTube I found a clip of what Edison shot.

Here’s the description from the film catalog.

The decisive moment in the great International Yacht Races is shown in this picture. Against a background of well defined clouds, the Light Boat is seen marking the finishing line in this great aquatic struggle. As the Columbia crosses the line, followed closely by the Shamrock, we see the steam from the whistle of the Light Ship announcing the well earned victory of the American yacht. 65 feet.

To think the incredible coverage of this year’s Cup had its roots way back in 1899 is pretty darn amazing!

And there’s more!

I’ve added a book to my reading list:

“A History of Sports Highlights: Replayed Plays from Edison to ESPN” by Raymond Gamache.  In it, he wrote, “The decision to capture the decisive moments of a race that featured 90-foot yachts rather than attempting to capture the event in its entirety necessarily involved strategic planning, coordination and timing,”

No doubt about that.

But my, how things have changed.  This year we were treated to such an “up close and personal” experience that we could practically feel the spray off the Bay.





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