First commercial movie screened On this day in 1895, the world’s first commercial movie screening takes place at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The film was made by Louis and Auguste Lumiere, two French brothers who developed a camera-projector called the Cinematographe. The Lumiere brothers unveiled their invention to the public in March 1895 with a brief film showing workers leaving the Lumiere factory. On December 28, the entrepreneurial siblings screened a series of short scenes from everyday French life and charged admission for the first time. Movie technology has its roots in the early 1830s, when Joseph Plateau of Belgium and Simon Stampfer of Austria simultaneously developed a device called the phenakistoscope, which incorporated a spinning disc with slots through which a series of drawings could be viewed, creating the effect of a single moving image. The phenakistoscope, considered the precursor of modern motion pictures, was followed by decades of advances and in 1890, Thomas Edison and his assistant William Dickson developed the first motion-picture camera, called the Kinetograph. The next year, 1891, Edison invented the Kinetoscope, a machine with a peephole viewer that allowed one person to watch a strip of film as it moved past a light. In 1894, Antoine Lumiere, the father of Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), saw a demonstration of Edison’s Kinetoscope. The elder Lumiere was impressed, but reportedly told his sons, who ran a successful photographic plate factory in Lyon, France, that they could come up with something better. Louis Lumiere’s Cinematographe, which was patented in 1895, was a combination movie camera and projector that could display moving images on a screen for an audience. The Cinematographe was also smaller, lighter and used less film than Edison’s technology. The Lumieres opened theaters (known as cinemas) in 1896 to show their work and sent crews of cameramen around the world to screen films and shoot new material. In America, the film industry quickly took off. In 1896, Vitascope Hall, believed to be the first theater in the U.S. devoted to showing movies, opened in New Orleans. In 1909, The New York Times published its first film review (of D.W. Griffith’s “Pippa Passes”), in 1911 the first Hollywood film studio opened and in 1914, Charlie Chaplin made his big-screen debut. In addition to the Cinematographe, the Lumieres also developed the first practical color photography process, the Autochrome plate, which debuted in 1907. 1908 Worst European earthquake At dawn, the most destructive earthquake in recorded European history strikes the Straits of Messina in southern Italy, leveling the cities of Messina in Sicily and Reggio di Calabria on the Italian mainland. The earthquake and tsunami it caused killed an estimated 100,000 people. Sicily and Calabria are known as la terra ballerina–“the dancing land”–for the periodic seismic activity that strikes the region. In 1693, 60,000 people were killed in southern Sicily by an earthquake, and in 1783 most of the Tyrrenian coast of Calabria was razed by a massive earthquake that killed 50,000. The quake of 1908 was particularly costly in terms of human life because it struck at 5:20 a.m. without warning, catching most people at home in bed rather than in the relative safety of the streets or fields. The main shock, registering an estimated 7.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, caused a devastating tsunami with 40-foot waves that washed over coastal towns and cities. The two major cities on either side of the Messina Straits–Messina and Reggio di Calabria–had some 90 percent of their buildings destroyed. Telegraph lines were cut and railway lines were damaged, hampering relief efforts. To make matters worse, the major quake on the 28th was followed by hundreds of smaller tremors over subsequent days, bringing down many of the remaining buildings and injuring or killing rescuers. On December 30, King Victor Emmanuel III arrived aboard the battleship Napoli to inspect the devastation. Meanwhile, a steady rain fell on the ruined cities, forcing the dazed and injured survivors, clad only in their nightclothes, to take shelter in caves, grottoes, and impromptu shacks built out of materials salvaged from the collapsed buildings. Veteran sailors could barely recognize the shoreline because long stretches of the coast had sunk several feet into the Messina Strait. 1832 Calhoun resigns vice presidency Citing political differences with President Andrew Jackson and a desire to fill a vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun becomes the first vice president in U.S. history to resign the office. Born near Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1782, Calhoun was an advocate of states’ rights and a defender of the agrarian South against the industrial North. Calhoun served as secretary of war under President James Monroe and in 1824 ran for the presidency. However, bitter partisan attacks from other contenders forced him out of the race, and he had to settle for the vice presidency under President John Quincy Adams. In 1828, he was again elected vice president while Andrew Jackson won the presidency. Calhoun soon found himself politically isolated from national affairs under President Jackson. On December 12, 1832, Calhoun was elected to fill a South Carolina Senate seat left vacant after the resignation of Senator Robert Hayne. Sixteen days later, he resigned the vice presidency. For the rest of his political life, Calhoun defended the slave-plantation system against the growing anti-slavery stance of the free states. In the early 1840s, while secretary of state under President John Tyler, he secured the admission of Texas into the Union as a slave state. Together with Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun dominated American political life in the first half of the 19th century.