Harry and Roy Aitken Papers, 1909-1940


Harry (1878-1956) and Roy (1882-1978) Aitken first entered the film business in 1905 with the establishment of four nickelodeons in downtown Chicago. Several years later, they sold the nickelodeons and organized film exchange agencies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and St. Louis and St. Joseph, Missouri. In the decade between 1910 and 1920, the Aitkens formed and financed a number of major film studios, including Majestic, Reliance, Keystone, Fine Arts, New York Motion Pictures and its subsidiaries, Broncho, Domino, and Kay-Bee. The Aitkens produced an estimated 2,500 films, which were marketed nationally and internationally through various distributing agencies under their direct control, such as Western Film Exchange, Mutual Film Corporation, Triangle Distributing Corporation, Epoch Producing Corporation, and Tri-Stone Pictures, Incorporated. Charlie Chaplin, Anita Loos, D. W. Griffith, William S. Hart, Mae Marsh, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Thomas Ince, Harold Lloyd, Billie Burke, Mack Sennett, Charles Ray, Douglas Fairbanks, Dorothy Dalton, Hedda Hopper, Mary Pickford, and Gloria Swanson were only a few of the talents in the Aitkens' employ.