Blackton was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, in 1875. At the age of ten, he and his family immigrated to New York City. In 1894, Blackton and two fellow English émigrés, Albert E. Smith and Ronald A. Reader, formed a partnership to break into vaudeville. Smith called himself the "Komikal Konjurer", Blackton was the "Komikal Kartoonist", and Reader operated an early version of the slide projector called a "magic lantern". Blackton's act consisted of "lightning sketches", where Blackton drew and rapidly modified drawings on an easel pad before the audience's eyes, accompanying this with a stream of talk nearly as rapid. The act failed to make enough money and the trio broke up to get regular jobs.
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