| Accessible on this page are 48 publicity photos from the first two
movie versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin: 24 each from the Edison-Porter and
the Lubin productions, which were both released in 1903. The pictures tell two
The first concerns the practices of the early U.S. film industry in the absence of clear copyright protections. Many of Sigmund Lubin's releases were "dupes" of the films Edwin Porter made for the Edison Company: imitations that often matched the original shot-for-shot. Lubin's Uncle Tom was advertised (at a lower price) within weeks after Porter's was made.
The other story, however, concerns the practices of the "Tommers," the UTC Companies who traveled throughout the nation putting on dramatizations of Stowe's novel, at the turn into the 20th century. Lubin never could have produced a full-length imitation so quickly if not for the availability of a troupe of actors who needed neither rehearsal time nor costumes nor sets. As you compare the pictures, you'll see how closely the two representations match, which suggests that for the smaller "UTC Companies," at least, the "Tom Show" was something very like a franchise, where the production was made up of parts that could be interchanged with other companies. The effect of this must have been to make going to see a "Tom Show" when it came to town even more of a ritual experience, like going to church or a Fourth of July celebration.
The 24 images on each list below also represent Stowe's story as each film tells it. The only major difference between them is that Lubin's version puts the steamboat race in to coincide with Tom's second trip on a riverboat -- i.e. not when Haley takes him down the Mississippi, but when Legree takes him up the Red River. (There is no steamboat race in Stowe's story, of course, but it had long been a staple of the "Tom Shows.") You can compare photos by clicking on a caption from either of the lists: