Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
July 1997 No. 22
Edward Muggeridge spoke English, but his second language was the image.
He described in images, documented in images, examined and proved in them.
And, as a by-product, he lead to their movement.
Of course we know Muggeridge today as Eadweard Muybridge, but this is just
the best-known of several names he gave himself (E. J. Muygridge, Helios).
It was as Edward James Muggeridge that he entered the world on April 9,
1830 in Kingston on-Thames, England. When he was twenty a coronation stone
was placed at Kingston, commemorating the seven Saxon Kings of England.
Two of the kings had been named Edward, and the memorial used the old spelling
- Eadweard. Perhaps their namesake saw the stone and the spelling caught
his fancy. If he felt that an interesting name would lead to an interesting
life - he was extremely prescient.
He also apparently felt the New World was more interesting than the Old,
for he set off for the United States in either 1851 or 1852 (sources vary).
By 1856 he was established in San Francisco as bookseller and publisher's
agent E. J. Muygridge. In 1860 or 1861 (a hard man to pin down) while he
was off for a visit to England, his stagecoach overturned in Texas and he
nearly died of a fractured skull. While recuperating back in England he
took up a new interest.
It was less than ten years before, in 1851, that Matthew Brady had won a
medal exhibiting his daguerreotypes at London's Great Exhibition. Muybridge,
being of a curious turn of mind, was probably not unaware of the wonders
being introduced at the exposition - may have even been to see them. Brady
had opened studios in New York and Washington in 1858. In 1860 the first
aerial photograph was made, capturing the image of Boston from a balloon.
And several months earlier, when a French expeditionary force set off for
Lebanon to protect Christians threatened by Druze tribesmen, photographer
Felix Bonfils was among the expedition personnel. Obviously a glamorous
new field. It was match; E. J. was hooked.
He began tinkering. He invented a special kind of photographic plate-printing
process; while he was at it he also turned out a machine for washing clothes.
By 1866 he was presenting himself as a professional photographer and soon
returned to the United States. He felt at home in the American West and
after the Civil War it was there that exciting work was being done in the
young medium. Muybridge made a trip to Yosemite in 1867, capturing it on
photographic plates long before Ansel Adams was born. Capturing any image
in the field at that time was not for the faint-of-ambition or the weak-of-back.
The process, known as wet collodion, involved finding your subject, placing
the camera, making your lens adjustments, hauling out a glass plate and
coating it with chemicals immediately, popping it into the plate holder
and making the exposure. No point-and-click here. To carry all this paraphernalia
Helios - his new trade name - would load everything into his "Flying
Studio", a horse-drawn covered cart, or sometimes onto a mule train,
and head for the hills. (For many years anything that moved very fast was
described as "flying".)
The Yosemite pictures made the reputation of the young Englishman and he
would return there in 1872, this time often using plates that measured 20
by 24 inches. Although a photographic enlarger had been invented in 1843,
the quality was necessarily poor; for acceptable results you had to use
negatives the size of the desired image. He would make many forays into
the west, both alone and with survey teams. While he did not accompany the
great teams of the period, the Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden, Clarence King,
John Wesley Powell, and George M. Wheeler surveys, he managed to keep very
busy, traveling to Alaska in 1868, documenting the U. S. military's war
against the Modoc Indians in 1873, traveling to Central America in 1875,
and producing a Panorama of San Francisco in 1877.
A successful photographer by 1872 he apparently decided to put down a few
roots, marrying divorcee Flora Shallcross Stone. In April of 1874 she presented
him with a son. It would seem likely that Eadweard had a hand in the naming
of Floredo Helios Muybridge. It also would seem, at least to Muybridge,
that Flora may have creatively amused herself while he was off "shooting"
Modocs, and that perhaps Floredo was not his. He was convinced enough to
put a fatal bullet into his wife's lover, Harry Larkyns, on October 17,
1874. He was imprisoned until his trial the following February, when his
attorney Wirt Pendegast got an acquittal on the grounds of insanity. Then
it was off to Central America, to let the ruckus die down and to take some
photographs. As if all this weren't enough, Muybridge had taken on a new
client and a new project.
California, with its background of conquistadors and caballeros, had always
been horse-mad. Polo and the big racetracks wouldn't really catch on until
the Hollywood era, but racing was always one of the more popular pastimes.
Mania might be a more apt description. One of the best known steeds was
Occidental, belonging to railroad president, millionaire and former governor
Leland Stanford. A controversy entertained the horsey set in the early 1870s.
Painters had often portrayed horses, front legs thrust forward and rear
legs to the back, all four hooves off the ground. But there were those observers
who doubted such a posture ever occurred. Stanford, familiar with Muybridge
through work the latter had done for the railroads, hired the photographer
and offered Occidental as a test model. Then he had to wait for his new
contractor to get out of jail and return from his brief exile. Finally,
with Muybridge back in the States, it was time to begin.
Settling in at Stanford's stables in Sacramento, Muybridge had Occidental
photographed by a row of 12 cameras as he was ridden past. Caught in the
dilemna of extremely slow shutters and the need for brief exposures, the
results were disappointing to both men. It looked like all four feet were
off the ground, but it wasn't absolutely certain. It has been claimed more
recently that those photos were then doctored. Whether or not this was the
case, more experimentation was needed.
Muybridge began tinkering. He added twelve more cameras to the row, then
another six. Instead of depending on manually operated shutters, experiments
were made using trip wires, touched off by the horse or its sulky. Finally,
in 1878 and 1879, working now in Palo Alto, the final attempts were made.
A battery of 24 automatically operating cameras in a long shed with controlled
lighting, triggered as the horse broke strings attached to each shutter,
resulted in a series of good images. Stanford's point was proved. The hooves
were suspended underneath the horse, rather than being thrust out behind
and in front, but they were all off the ground.
Back to the tinkerer's bench. His next device was intended to project the
sequential images onto a wall, one right after the other. He called it a
Zoopraxiscope, from the Greek words for animal and rotate. With his slides
and his new invention Muybridge was off to Europe for several years of touring
and lecturing. One result of his new-found fame was a friendship with the
U. S. painter Thomas Eakins. When Muybridge returned to the States, Eakins
used his own influence at the University of Pennsylvania to arrange a grant
there for his English friend. Muybridge began using new dry plates, allowing
for improved definition, and a motor clock to synchronize three different
cameras, shooting the same subject from three angles. During 1884 and 1885
he took more than 20,000 photographs - men, women, children, birds, animals
- all in motion. The men and women, mostly from the Philadelphia Athletic
Association, all wore authentic early Greek athletic costumes, which is
to say, nothing at all. He published his results in a series of books that
still serve as models for artists and anatomy students today.
For some reason he never made the mental leap from his Zoopraxiscope to
a reel of film holding a continuous series of projectable images, but we
can be quite certain that a meeting with Thomas Edison put a bug in the
Menlo Park inventor's ear, if it wasn't already there.
Eadweard Muybridge retired to his birthplace in 1894, dying in Kingston
on May 8, 1904 at the age of 74.
Ninety-two years later Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority construction
workers at the new Union Station headquarters erected a $50,000 photo montage.
Among the mural's past and present buses, cars, trolleys, and trains, and
NASA pictures of the planets, could be seen a reproduction of one of Muybridge's
Human Locomotion series, portraying a male nude, running. A few MTA employees
complained. A typical remark: "I would not want to bring my daughter
in to see this type of art". Workers draped a black plastic sheet over
Muybridge still leads an interesting life.
A few dates in the history of photography during the first twenty-four years
of Muybridge's life.
Mar 8 1832
Photographer Felix Bonfils is born, in St.-Hippolyte-du-Fort, France.
Charles Wheatstone invents a "stereoscopic viewing device".1837
Louis Daguerre invents a process to fix images on a light-sensative silvered
Hippolyte Bayard introduces direct-positive images on sensitized paper.1840
U. S. painter-inventor-photographer Samuel F. B. Morse visits Daguerre in
The French Academy makes the Daguerre photographic process public.
The first Daguerreotype made in the U. S., by Morse and Dr. John W. Draper.
Alexander S. Wolcott is issued the first photography patent, for his
The first class photo is taken, by Morse, of the reunion of Yale's 1810
William Henry Fox Talbot patents the Calotype process.1843
Western photographer William Henry Jackson is born in Keeseville, New
York. ** D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson open portrait studio in Edinburgh,
Photographer David Octavius Hill documents the plight of New Haven, Connecticut,
fishermen in their unsafe vessels. ** Photographer Raja Deen Dayal is born
in Sardhana, India.1845
Photographic pioneer Alexander S. Wolcott dies.
Matthew B. Brady begins making portraits of the celebrities of his time.1848
C. F. A. Niepce de Saint-Victor uses albumen on glass plates for producing
Maxime Du Camp travels to Egypt to photograph its monuments.1851
Talbot demonstrates the first split-second photography, taking a picture
of printed paper as it revolves on a wheel.1852
Talbot patents a process that will become the forerunner of half-tone
reproduction and photogravure. ** Swiss police begin collecting mug shots
A.-E. Disderi patents carte-de visite (visiting card) portraiture.
PEARL OF AN URL
If you have Web access you might want to surf on over to Pacific Interactive
Media's Eadweard Muybridge:
Father of Motion Pictures site. Recent browser versions will support
samples of Muybridge's photography, animated by your computer. One caveat
- if you find even non-purient nudity offensive - Don't go there. It's all
pretty quaint however.
EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY (more detailed versions available)
Muybridge, Eadweard (various editions)
- Animals in Motion (1899)
- Animal Locomotion (1887)
- Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881)
- Descriptive Zoopraxography (1893)
- The Human Figure in Motion (1901)
- Darrah, William Culp - Powell of the Colorado (Princeton, 1951)
- Driggs, Harold R. & Jackson, William H. - The Pioneer Photographer
(New York, 1929)
- Goetzmann, William H. - Army Exploration in the American West (New Haven,
- Haas, Robert Bartlett - Edweard Muybridge the Stanford Years 1872-1882
(Stanford University Press, 1972)
- Haas, Robert Bartlett - Muybridge in Motion (University of California
- Hafen, Leroy & Ann W. - The Diaries of William Henry Jackson (Glendale,
- Hendricks, Gordon - Edweard Muybridge the Father of the Motion Picture
- King, Clarence - Moutaineering in the Sierra Nevada (Boston, 1872)
- MacDonnell, Kenven - Edweard Muybridge: The Man Who Invented the Moving
Picture (Little Brown, 1972)
- Muybridge, Edweard - The Human Figure in Motion (Dover, 1955)
- Pollack, Peter - The Picture History of Photography (New York, 1958)
- Taft, Robert - Photography and the American Scene (New York, 1938)
- Wilkins, Thurman - Clarence King (New Yoirk, 1958)
I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.
© 1997 David Minor Eagles Byte