Richard J. Appleton

British manufacturer, filmmaker

Son of Thomas Appleton, a prominent photographer in Bradford, Richard James Appleton was a boarder at the Wesleyan College, Sheffield. Appleton & Co. was a long-standing Yorkshire firm of photographic and magic lantern outfitters, having started in the 1850s, operating later from 58 Manningham Lane, Bradford, and other addresses. From the early 1890s Richard took over his father’s business, and in 1896 bought out the photographic dept of Percy Lund & Co. With his son Richard Norman Appleton he experimented in 1896 with X-Rays. With the advent of cinematography R.J. Appleton devised a tri-partite motion picture apparatus which he called the Cieroscope, combining the functions of camera, printer and projector, and first put into use in November 1896. It sold at fifteen guineas, plus an extra two guineas with Cecil Wray's special cinematograph lens. Appleton also produced his own films, which brought praise from Cecil Hepworth, writing in Amateur Photographer.

Certainly one personal success for Appleton was his filming of Queen Victoria's Jubilee procession on 22 June 1897, with the help of his local newspaper, the Bradford Argus. His ambitious scheme was to film the procession in London, and show the results on the same evening in Bradford. A railway van was fitted out as a dark room, and the project - a remarkable achievement for the date - was successfully carried out. 250,000 spectators are reported to have seen the films projected on a giant screen beside the Argus building through the week. In 1898 an employee was convicted of stealing money and stock from the company. The Tamworth Times reported that clerk W.C. Harmsworth had got into bad company by attending various places with the cinematograph. In 1901 R.J. was an ‘optician and photo dealer’ in Ilkley, and soon afterwards R.J. and and his son R.N. Appleton started a business making gramophones, which continued for many years. Descendants were still trading as R.J. Appleton, Halifax in 1939, advertising Pathé home cine projectors and a film library.

Richard Brown / Denis Gifford (updated by Stephen Herbert, October 2017)