Harry Aitken

Harry E. Aitken (October 4, 1877 – August 1, 1956) was an American film studio executive.

Harry Aitken
Harry Aitken circa 1910.jpg
Aitken, c. 1910
Harry E. Aitken

October 4, 1877
DiedAugust 1, 1956 (aged 78–79)
Burial placePrairie Home Cemetery
OccupationSilent film executive


He was born on 4 October 1877. He grew up on a family farm near Goerke's Corners, Wisconsin.[1][2] The brothers operated Keystone Studios and eventually Harry became a partner in the Mutual Film Company.

Along with his brother Roy Aitken (1882–1978), he helped pioneer the production and distribution of movies during the early silent film era in the United States.[3] In 1906 they founded the Western Film Exchange with John R. Freuler.[4] They moved to California in 1908 and in 1912 founded the Mutual distribution company. Within three years they were distributing movies to 45 towns and cities.[5]

Aitken worked with D. W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin. He was involved with the Majestic and Reliance studios.[6] With D. W. Griffith he co-founded Epoch Producing Company under the umbrella of which The Birth of a Nation was produced. The profits from that film were used to set up the Triangle Film Corporation in 1915, which was on a triangular plot in Culver City. This produced the Intolerance but failed soon after due to over ambition and was sold to Goldwyn.[7]

He returned to in home town of Waukesha, Wisconsin around 1918 and died there on 1 August 1956 and is buried there in Prairie Home Cemetery.[8]

The Wisconsin Historical Society has a collection of his papers.[3]

Film productionsEdit


Aitken is portrayed by Jim Broadbent in the 2003 HBO TV movie And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.


  1. ^ "Harry E. Aitken, Keystone Film Company Waukesha County, Wisconsin - Waukesha County WI". www.linkstothepast.com.
  2. ^ Prigge, Matthew (September 10, 2018). "'The Birth of a Nation' Might Never Have Been Made if Not For This Milwaukee Movie Mogul". Milwaukee Magazine.
  3. ^ a b "Archival Resources in Wisconsin: Descriptive Finding Aids". digicoll.library.wisc.edu.
  4. ^ IMDb Harry Aitken
  5. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More than 14000 Famous Persons, Scott Wilson
  6. ^ "AITKEN, Harry E." www.thanhouser.org.
  7. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More than 14000 Famous Persons, Scott Wilson
  8. ^ Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More than 14000 Famous Persons, Scott Wilson

Further readingEdit

  • King, Rob (Winter 2005). "Made for the Masses with an Appeal to the Classes": The Triangle Film Corporation and the Failure of Highbrow Film Culture". Cinema Journal. University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies. 44 (2): 3–33. doi:10.1353/cj.2005.0009. JSTOR 3661092.