Excerpts from an article by Douglas Crockwell - Date Unknown - Publication Unknown
"With the perfection in the late 1880's of the Eastman flexible film in extended lengths, motion-picture cameras appeared all over the Western world. Projectors, however, were then non-existent, In their stead was Edison's Kinestoscopes, a film viewing box. These peep-shows began to fill penny arcades & quickly became the commercial outlet for the cameraman.
The popularity of the Kinetoscope was superseded by that of the Mutoscope, which began production in 1895. The Mutoscope picture was seven times larger than the Kinetoscope film frames, and its card reel infinitely tougher than the film strip. As the film deteriorated, the cards flipped on, and by 1897 the Mutoscope dominated the arcade parlors. Some of the early machines & reels are still running commercially after hundreds of thousands of rotations.
Mutoscopes of this period fall into two general categories. First were the "Iron Horses,"all cast-iron and heavily ornate, the machines of the American Mutoscope and Biograph companies. They worked well and allowed ample viewing space. Four models can still be found, one of them electric. Next were the International Mutoscopes made of sheet metal, with small boxes, angle iron legs, and cramped viewing lenses. They were produced in a number of arty variants,......
The original Mutoscope patent issued in1895 listed Herman Casler of Oneonta. New York, as the inventor, and the prototype was built in the C.E. Lipe Machine Shop in Syracuse, where he was employed. Some time later W.K.L. Dickson, an associate of Edison, stated the initial idea had been his. H.N. Marvin & E.B. Koopman shortly joined Casler & Dickson to form K.M.C.D. syndicate, which became the American Mutoscope Company & later the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company with headquarters at 841 Broadway, New York City. On the roof of this building was the famous sunlit revolving stage.
Although the card-flipping principle of the Mutoscope Machine was not original (thumb books had been in use for years), the circular card reel was new, and the viewing time of one rotation......was about one minute, the same as that of the average thirty foot film produced by the existing cameras. The Biograph Company soon developed its own camera, the "Mutograph" and later a projector, the "Biograph." With this projector, the commercial motion-picture theater became a reality, and the Mutoscope peep-show fell into disregard.
The Mutoscope is a childhood image in the minds of many adults. The Nostalgia it evokes may be derived from the design of the machine itself, but it resides more fully in the reels and the world they present when the cards are flipped. These classic reels were produced from 1897 to 1907, when Biograph turned completely to projection. It is estimated that over 4,000 titles and 100,000 reels were printed and distributed during this period. of these, perhaps 500 reels are still in existence.
The Actors & Actresses - hundreds of personalities from the stage - appeared anonymously. Some reels were made in series like Happy Hooligan, Rip Van Winkle, and Foxy Grandpa. Single titles of some early reels were alphonse and the Gaston Helping Irishman, An Affair of Honor, Deaf Mute Girl Reciting the Star Spangled Banner, How They Rob Men in Chicago, Baby's Day (approved for display in Boston on Sunday), Robbed of Her All, Wake in Hell's Kitchen, and Old Maid and the Burglar, all broad morality plays or comedies. The Scenic views like Niagara Fall, Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Paris from the Seine were much like scenics of any age, but the camera generally remained rigidly fixed. I have seen the "pan shot" but once, in Horse Thief.
Newsreels, sporting events, and Hollywood films were cut by international Mutoscope, Co. to fit the one minute viewing time. Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Tom Mix and other name actors appeared in fragmentary episodes. But the glory of the International Mutoscope production must rest with its "Girlies," dance and strip-tease subjects.
Production of the Mutoscope reels ceased completely in the 1950's, but they remain of enduring interest. Tomorrow, we may find some of them included among the classics of the motion-picture art. - Douglass Crockwell
I've always liked this article because it ends where my father (John S. Reverand Sr.) picked up. We have quietly been in the Mutoscope movie business since the 1950's....Old Time Movies