Murder and the Birth of Motion Pictures (2013)
The falling-out between Muybridge and Stanford began in 1882, when they were both in France, independently of each other. Muybridge was in France to learn more in the world of photography, while Stanford was traveling in Europe to relax, and also to escape the spotlight and pressure of being the most powerful and influential Californian. When Stanford (and his family) was in Paris, Stanford became extremely jealous of the glowing reception in the newspapers that Muybridge received; he felt slighted that Muybridge never mentioned his name in conjunction with his success with moving pictures. Stanford, a man that always had things the way he wanted them, went back to San Francisco and used Muybridge's collection of photographs for his own published book. Stanford's book of Muybridge's photos (Muybridge was rarely mentioned in the book) sold well enough in America and in Europe, that when Muybridge traveled to his nation of origin, Great Britain, he was accused of plagiarism. When Muybridge came back to the United States, he sued Stanford, but lost, mostly due to the fact that Stanford had an all-star legal team in play. At this point, the only way that Muybridge could make money was to travel across America, giving presentations using his Zoopraxiscope(projector); Muybridge was the first to show motion pictures to paying audiences. By the end of 1882, Muybridge and Stanford reached the point where they detested each other.
In 1883, Muybridge accepted a position at Penn; the university decided to sponsor him in order to have a famous Artist / Scientist in residence. Muybridge accepted the position because he needed the money and prestige, but also so he could try and upstage Stanford. For the next five years, Muybridge worked on projects that interested him, free of any meaningful supervision from the Penn administration. Most of Muybridge's projects involved photographing people in motion, even himself from time-to-time. The major problem as far as Penn was concerned was that these people photographed in motion were also nude. By 1888, Penn tired of his eccentricities, and refused to renew his contract. The good news for Muybridge by 1888: he had been cleared of all charges of plagiarism from Stanford's book, and was still famous . . . the bad news was that he was in need of a source of regular income.
In February, 1888, Muybridge met with a young-but-famous Thomas Edison. Muybridge, almost certainly hoped that a connection with Edison would prove to be fruitful in terms of work, money, and prestige, discussed an idea with the "Wizard of Menlo Park". Muybridge's idea: combine his pictures in motion with Edison's phonograph. Very soon after their first-and-only meeting, an article mentioning this idea appeared in "The Nation" (founded in 1865; a journal that contained opinions and analysis . . . it's still published); it is not known who provided the information for the article, but Edward Ball believed that Edison had the most to gain by "leaking" the idea. Muybridge, back to presenting his moving pictures on his projector to paying audiences, was near West Orange, New Jersey, where Edison had recently relocated in order to have a larger base of operations. Edison had a nasty habit of "borrowing" the work and ideas of others, and passing them off as his own, and that is what he did with Muybridge's life work. It is due to this "theft" that to this day, most Americans believe that Thomas Edison
invented motion pictures.
Celluloid, the original plastic material, was "developed" by the late-1880s; George Eastmanwas using celluloid by 1889, calling it "film". Celluloid changed everything for motion picture technology. Muybridge could not do what Edison could - Research & Development, market, advertise, and innovate in the fledgling world of motion picture technology - Edison even coined the term "Filmmaker". In 1893, Muybridge reached the peak of his fame during theChicago World's Fair; he had a permanent exhibit, and for the first time, people came to him while he presented his moving pictures that featured twenty-four photographs on his Zoopraxiscope; one could argue that his exhibit was the first movie theater. Leland Stanford was attending the Chicago World's Fair, but refused to visit Muybridge; by then, Stanford was ailing, being taken around the exhibits in a wheelchair. Stanford would die that same year at the age of 69, never having reconciled with Muybridge.
During this period, Edison invented the Kinetograph (motion picture camera using celluloid) and the Kinetoscope (one-person motion picture viewer), and in April, 1894 in New York City, Edison created the first Kinetoscope Parlor for the paying public. Edison soon faced competition from the Lumiere Brothers in France - the Lumieres invented a celluloid projector that could display movies on a screen for an audience to watch together at the same time. Edison, knowing that his Kinetoscope was dead-in-the-water, developed his "Vitascope" in 1895 to beat the Lumieres to the punch in the United States. Both Edison and the Lumieres were on to the same thing that Muybridge had discovered years before: people liked to view motion pictures in an audience (a "Communal Gaze"). 1895 was the year that motion pictures became a common amusement in cities; it was also the year that Muybridge closed down his exhibit in Chicago, and moved back to Great Britain. He gave his last presentation in 1896; by then, no one was willing to pay to see his dated technology at work.
On 8 May, 1904, Edward Muybridge died in Great Britain. An eccentric to the end, Muybridge died while continuing to dig a huge hole in his back yard that was, for some reason, in the shape of the Great Lakes. In 1905, the first true movie theater opened in Pittsburgh; before this theater, movies were shown as "teasers" before live performances (e.g. Vaudeville). By 1915, Edison was out of the movie business due to the U.S. Government's enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act against his efforts at creating a monopoly in the emerging movie industry.
Edward Muybridge was among the first to create moving pictures. However, Muybridge WAS the first to show moving pictures to audiences, since that was the only way he could make money from his vision and expertise in the world of photography. Due to "The Borrowers", namely Leland Stanford and especially Thomas Edison, Muybridge has largely been lost in U.S. History. At best, Muybridge is remembered in popular history as the photographer that showed that all four hooves of a horse leave the ground when it is at full-gallop. He is forgotten as one of the pioneers of motion pictures (and as a murderer), a visual medium that continues to enthrall and engage Americans, whether or not they are a fan of Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which I saw earlier today . . . it was great . . . BTW, contrary to popular belief, Captain America was never President of the United States).
New York Times Book Review of Edward Ball's The Inventor and the Tycoon:
A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Motion Pictures (2013)