Also important to the increasing popularity of commercialized forms of visual entertainment was the panorama (sometimes called the cyclorama in the United States). First introduced by the Irish artist Robert Barker in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1787, panoramas ("all-embracing views") were massive circular paintings that provided a continuous, 360-degree view of a famous battle, landscape, cityscape, or seascape. The paintings were lit from above by natural sunlight and featured an astonishing degree of precise detail rendered in perfect perspective. The realism of such paintings frequently gave spectators the overwhelming sensation of being present at the depicted scene. Moving panoramas were first presented to the American public by John Banvard in 1846 (they were called dioramas in the United States but should not be confused with Daguerre's diorama). These were made up of individual canvases joined together to create a painting one thousand (or more) feet long and eight to twelve feet high. The canvas was wound like a scroll around two vertical rollers concealed by a proscenium arch. Banvard's first painting—which he claimed was three miles long—depicted a trip down the Mississippi River. Other moving panoramas similarly focused on lengthy trips down the Missouri River and across the newly settled territories of the American West. The extremely popular subject matter of moving and circular panoramas suited the political context of the time: Manifest Destiny in the United States and European imperial wars instilled on a broad scale the desire to see
Eadweard Muybridge immigrated to the United States in 1852, where he began his career as a landscape photographer, producing stunning images of the US Pacific Coast, San Francisco, and Yosemite Valley. He also provided photographic surveys of the Central Pacific Railroad and documented the Modoc Indian Wars. In 1872 he was hired by the former governor of California, Leland Stanford, to prove that, at a particular moment in its gait, all four hooves of a galloping horse leave the ground. This required that Muybridge photograph a horse in motion—yet photographing a moving subject had never been done before. Muybridge produced the evidence confirming Stanford's theory, although no prints of this experiment survive.
In 1874 Muybridge shot and killed his wife's lover, Harry Larkyns. He was ultimately acquitted of murder charges on the grounds of justifiable homicide. He quietly left the country for Central America, where he photographed Guatemala and Panama. In 1876 Muybridge returned to California and, with Stanford's financial support, resumed his study of equine locomotion. In 1876 he built a track and lined it with a battery of cameras featuring electromagnetic shutters that allowed him to capture sequential photographs of a horse in motion. He stretched wires from each camera across to the opposite side of the track, directly in the pathway to be followed by the horse. As the horse galloped down the track, it tripped the wire connected to each shutter, effectively taking pictures of its own movements. Each shot had an exposure time of 1/500 of a second. The interval between each shot was 1/25 of a second. The resulting photographs, presented at the San Francisco Art Association on 8 July 1878, were highly acclaimed.
Following this success, Muybridge expanded his study to include series photographs of cows, elephants, oxen, and deer in the process of walking, leaping, or hauling heavy loads. In 1879 he invented the zoopraxiscope, a device that allowed him to project moving images. He painted copies of his photographic images around the circumference of a glass disk attached to a magic lantern. Another disk featuring a series of slots was mounted opposite the illustrated disk. When the two disks were spun in opposite directions, the slots functioned like a shutter and allowed for the individual static images to be projected as moving images. The zoopraxiscope debuted on 4 May 1880 at the San Francisco Art Association and was presented at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
After taking the zoopraxiscope on a celebrated lecture tour throughout Europe, Muybridge returned to the United States in 1882. Between 1884 and 1885 he resumed his experiments in animal locomotion at the University of Pennsylvania, where he struck up a relationship with the painter Thomas Eakins. He vastly expanded the kinds of animals he photographed and challenged the social conventions of the time by photographing nude men, women, and children engaged in a broad range of activities, from boxing and wrestling to bathing, ascending a staircase, and smoking cigarettes. In 1887 Muybridge published Animal Locomotion: An Electro-photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, which featured over 19,347 photographic images.
Hendricks, Gordon. Eadweard Muybridge . London: Dover Publications, 2001.
Prodger, Philip. Time Stands Still: Eadweard Muybridge and the Instantaneous Photography Movement . New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2003.
newly conquered territories. The emphasis on travel and views of famous landscapes also exploited the fashionable desire to visit distant destinations but at a fraction of the cost and effort of actual travel.
As with many of the optical toys and screen entertainments (with the exception of photography) that preceded them, moving and circular panoramas were displaced by the rise of the cinema in the 1890s. Invented by the entrepreneur George C. Hale, an amusement called Hale's Tours premiered at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. Hale's Tours allowed spectators to take imaginary trips to distant places for only ten cents. Seated in a venue decorated to resemble a railway car, up to seventy "passengers" watched films shot from motion picture cameras shot from the front or back of a moving locomotive. The films were accompanied by sound effects (such as a train's whistle) and cars rocked to simulate the motion of train travel. However, the realism and variety of moving pictures clearly outstripped that which could be provided by Hale's Tours, circular and moving panoramas, magic lantern shows, and dioramas. Nevertheless, it was nineteenth-century forms of visual culture that helped create the social, cultural, and economic context in which the cinema ultimately thrived: they were the forerunners of modern culture's new conception of space and time; they fostered and satisfied a desire for spectacles based on astonishing machine-made illusion and persuasive realism; they made relatively affordable, repeatable forms of entertainment available to large urban audiences; and they took advantage of new technologies and scientific discoveries to do so.
Barnouw, Erik. The Magician and the Cinema . London: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Braun, Marta. Picturing Time: The Work of Étienne-Jules Marey, 1830–1904. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
Charney, Leo, and Vanessa Schwarz, eds. Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film . New York: Norton, 2004.
Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995.
Gernsheim, Helmut, and Alison Gernsheim. L. J. M. Daguerre: The History of the Diorama and the Daguerreotype . New York: Dover Publications, 1968.
Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Oettermann, Stephan. Panorama: History of a Mass Medium . Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider. New York: Zone Books, 1997.