THE INFLUENCE OF LOUIS DAGUERRE
THE BEGINNINGS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
The cinema's prehistory is frequently narrated though the enumeration of various technologies whose invention slowly but surely led to moving pictures. Indeed, the capacity to produce and project moving pictures did depend on notable inventions such as photography, flexible roll film, intermittent mechanisms for projectors, and forms of artificial illumination such as lime-light and electric light. However, it is important to keep in mind that the cinema itself was rarely, if ever, the goal of the scientists, experimenters, entertainers, and photographers who developed the optical toys and screen entertainment that ultimately made moving pictures mechanically feasible. They had other objectives in mind—such as proving a scientific hypothesis about human vision and locomotion or expanding on the aesthetic and commercial possibilities of painting and photography. Moreover, the history of cinema must take into account certain social, cultural, and political changes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which enabled the success of commercialized leisure, such as magic lantern shows, panoramas, and, ultimately, the cinema.
During the Enlightenment in eighteenth-century Europe, experimentation in optics and physics led to the development of the scientific and mechanical principles on which many forms of nineteenth-century visual culture are based. In turn, the French and American Revolutions and the decreasing importance of the church and monarchy in everyday life created new opportunities to develop secular culture, democracy, and the bourgeois and middle classes. The spread of popular education in the latter half of the nineteenth century, particularly in the United States, fostered literacy and intellectual curiosity among the working and middle classes, creating a market for dime novels, comic books, and philosophical toys, which were devices meant to demonstrate a scientific principle while providing amusement, such as the thaumatrope and the phenakistoscope. The rise of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century caused a massive shift in populations from the country to urban centers in Europe, England, and the United States, creating a market for cheap, urban forms of mass entertainment for office and factory workers who sought respite from their daily toils and who had a modicum of leisure time and disposable income available for leisure activities. Moreover, industrialization demanded technological innovations—such as the railway, steamship, telegraph, telephone, and electric power—to help accelerate the efficient production and circulation of natural resources, finished products, and workers to and through urban centers. Such inventions cannot be separated from the technologies used in new urban forms of entertainment. For example, Thomas Edison (1847–1931) first conceived of the phonograph as an aide to office workers, while transportation technologies were very quickly converted to the purposes of leisure: not only did the streetcar shuttle thousands to amusement parks, it also provided the technological basis for the roller coaster. These changes led to an explosion in urban commercial entertainment. The history of the various forms of visual culture and entertainment that preceded the cinema developed from this broader social, political, and economic context, which might broadly be identified as "technological modernity."
Many nineteenth-century optical toys delighted spectators by creating the illusion of motion from static images. This illusion depends on the exploitation of the optical phenomenon known as persistence of vision, a characteristic of human perception first theorized by the English physician Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869) in 1824. Roget explained that the eye and brain retain an image on the retina for a fraction of a second after the image has been removed from the field of vision. Hence when a series of images are perceived in rapid succession, the eye will "fill in" any gap between them. Put differently, the human eye fails to see the gap that separates images presented in rapid succession, simply because the retina retains an impression of each image for a brief moment even after it has disappeared, thereby allowing one image to blend into the next. The exploitation of the persistence of vision is the foundation of all philosophical toys and optical devices that create the illusion of continuous motion.
In London in 1825 John Paris (1785–1856), a doctor, popularized a philosophical toy called the thaumatrope ("magical turner" or "wonder turner"), which demonstrates the eye's fusion of two static images into a single image when shown in rapid succession. The thaumatrope was a simple device made of a paper disk illustrated on both sides. Strings attached opposite one another on the perimeter of the disk on either side of the illustration allowed the disk to be twirled between the viewer's finger and thumb. The illustrations themselves tended to be separated elements of a single picture—for example, a horse depicted on one side and its rider on the other, a bird painted opposite its cage, or a bald man separated from his wig. Twirling the thaumatrope creates the illusion that the two images have fused into a single "complete" picture: a man riding a horse, a bird inside a cage, or a man with ample hair.
After 1830 more complex toys using multiple images created the illusion of movement by relying on the use of a shutter mechanism. In the early 1830s the Belgian scientist Joseph Plateau (1801–1883) constructed his "phenakistocope" ("deceptive view") to demonstrate the findings of his research into optics, the afterimage, and the persistence of vision. The earliest phenakistoscope consisted of a single disk mounted on a handle, much like a pinwheel. The disk itself was divided evenly into eight or sixteen segments, each of which contained an illustration depicting a single phase of some dynamic action (e.g., a figure jumping rope or juggling, a bird flapping its wings in flight, a galloping horse) alongside a small slot cut into the disc. The phenakistoscope created the illusion of motion when the illustrated side of the disc was held facing toward a mirror and spun. As the viewer looked through each of the passing slots, its accompanying image was briefly visible in the mirror. When spun rapidly, the phenakistoscope caused the successively viewed images to create the illusion of continuous motion out of the static images, thanks to the persistence of vision. Commercial versions of the phenakistoscope (the Phantasmascope and later the Fantascope) were available by 1833. Like the thaumatrope, the phenakistoscope was a popular parlor toy that educated as it entertained.
Shortly thereafter, in 1834, George Horner (1786–7837) created a device that he called the daedalum, which was to be known commercially as the Zoetrope ("live turning"). This device operated according to the same principles as the phenakistoscope but had the added advantage of allowing multiple viewers to enjoy the toy simultaneously without the aid of a mirror. Viewers gathered around an open-topped revolving drum illuminated from above. Illustrated strips of paper (again depicting individual phases of a single motion) lined the inside of the drum. These images were visible through evenly spaced, narrow slots placed between them, and the individual images appeared to merge into a single continuous motion when the device was spun. The illustrated strips of paper were changeable, allowing viewers to enjoy a range of animated images. The daedalum was renamed the Zoetrope in 1867 by William F. Lincoln, an American who patented the device and made it available for popular consumption.
One of the most important figures in the development of various forms of optical culture that preceded and contributed to the development of the early cinema was Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1789–1851). In 1822 Daguerre displayed an invention called the diorama, which featured natural and urban landscapes—such as mountain views, cathedrals, and city street scenes—painted on both sides of a massive (approximately 71 feet by 45 feet), transparent linen canvas. At Daguerre's Diorama theater in Paris, the canvas was viewed through a proscenium arch by an audience seated on top of a platform that could rotate the audience to face two different screens. Daguerre illuminated his canvases from behind and in front by means of sunlight admitted through ground-glass windows. This light was filtered through numerous colored, transparent screens and shutters controlled by a system of pulleys and counter-weights. Daguerre manipulated light, shadow, and the opacity and transparency of his pigments to create stunning representations of the sun rising and setting or to represent the approach and departure of astorm. A newspaper review of Daguerre's first diorama, The Valley of Sarnen (1822), described the changing effects of his mechanical aestheticization of natural light:
… from a calm, soft delicious serene day in summer, the horizon gradually changes, becoming more and more overcast, until a darkness, not the effect of night, but evidently of an approaching storm—a murky, tempestuous blackness—discolors every object.… This change of light upon the lake (which occupies a considerate proportion of the picture) is very beautifully contrived. The warm reflection of the sunny sky recedes by degrees, and the advancing dark shadow runs across the water—chasing, as it were, the former bright effects before it. (Quoted in Gernsheim and Gernsheim, p. 17)
As this description suggests, the diorama's visual pleasure was closely linked to the illusion of the passing of time and motion on screen. Later dioramas created the illusion of human movement. Daguerre's A Midnight Mass at Saint-Étienne-du-Mont depicted an empty church at sunset; as daylight faded, candles were lit at the back of the church and slowly a congregation appeared to fill the church in preparation for mass.
As exhibitors increasingly used artificial light sources (such as gaslight) to illuminate these canvases, they became vulnerable to fire, and indeed in 1839, one of Daguerre's dioramas in Paris went up in flames. Like other popular pre- and proto-cinematic forms of visual entertainment, the diorama visually transported audiences to distant landscapes and landmarks without requiring any movement on their part, and they made such an experience both repeatable and available to a large audience. Spectators took delight in the unprecedented realism of the depicted scene and the persuasiveness of the illusions it offered to the eye; that pleasure was heightened by the knowledge that these were, in fact, only illusions, dependent on the exhibitor's virtuoso deployment of new technologies and scientific principles. In short, the diorama made pleasurable the intersection of rational knowledge and "magical" illusion and made such an experience commercially available on a relatively wide scale.
Like the diorama, the magic lantern was central to the popular success of commercialized forms of visual culture. Like other optical devices ultimately used for entertainment, the magic lantern had its origins in scientific experimentation. In his book Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (The Great Art of Light and Shadow, 1645–1646), the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher described a device he called the catoptric lamp, which could create illuminated images by catching sunlight on a mirror and reflecting it through a lenticular lens (that is, shaped like a doubleconvex lens) onto the wall of a darkened chamber. An opaque image or word (with letters inverted) embossed upside down on the mirror would be directed (but not quite projected) by the reflected sunlight on the darkened wall. Kircher used transparent paints to color his images and would employ two or more lamps to allow multiple images and words to appear on the wall simultaneously. In the absence of natural sunlight, Kircher demonstrated that illumination sufficient for projection could be obtained by condensing candlelight through a glass sphere filled with water. The catoptric lamp was the precursor to the very popular magic lantern.
In 1659 the Dutch physicist Christian Huygens developed his lanterne magique, a device that contributed to the development of projected images. Huygens's correspondence describes how he painted images on glass slides (rather than a mirror) and directed artificial light through a lens to project his images. The Danish lens grinder and teacher Thomas Rasmussen Walgensten is known to have publicly demonstrated his magic lantern before small, exclusive audiences (such as royal families) between 1664 and 1670. The magic lantern did not move out of closed circles of private demonstrations for scientists, experimenters, and privileged audiences until the 1790s (once the social and economic conditions became ripe), when the Belgian Etiènne Gaspard́rt (1764–1837) developed the magic lantern for the purposes of commercial entertainment with great success. Robért changed his name to Robertson and premiered his spectacular magic lantern show, the Robe Fantasmagorie, at the Pavillion d'Echiquier in Paris in 1799. He professed that his magic lantern would help dispel his audiences' belief in the existence of ghosts and spirits while simultaneously delighting them with the terror that his display of illusory specters inspired.
Several years later, Robertson transformed the chapel of an abandoned Capuchin monastery into an atmospheric venue for his show. Robertson exploited the inherent spookiness of this setting and established an atmosphere of terror by shuttling his audiences through dark corridors to a chamber illuminated only by glowing coals. The space was decorated with skulls and mysterious markings, and the death knell of tolling bells and other sound effects established an ominous mood. Once his audience was seated, Robertson threw chemicals on the glowing coals to make smoke billow from them; he then extinguished all the lights, cloaking his audience in a terrifying darkness. Images of ghosts, ghouls, demons, distorted human faces, and skeletons were projected onto the clouds of smoke by magic lanterns that had been craftily concealed from the audiences' view, thanks to Robertson's use of rear projection. The billowing smoke gave an illusory movement to the static images that were skillfully painted on glass slides and projected through the lantern's lens. Robertson also projected images onto thin gauze that had been treated with wax to make the fabric translucent and allowed the rear-projected image to be visible through its surface. As film historian Erik Barnouw explains, the gauze was hidden behind black curtains, which were drawn back once the venue was thrown into darkness. To further conceal the source of the projected apparitions and thereby intensify the illusion, Robertson darkened the area of the glass slides surrounding the illustration, so that when the images of ghosts and phantoms were projected they seemed to hang eerily in the darkness. He also mounted his magic lanterns on an apparatus that would allow him to slide the lanterns forward and back. This had the effect of making the projected image appear to grow and approach the audience when the lantern was moved forward or shrink and move away from the audience when it was moved backward. When the lantern's focus was expertly adjusted in sync with the movement of the apparatus, the illusion of emergence and retreat intensified the sensationalism of the spectacle. Robertson not only projected images of phantoms and ghosts but also made reference to the contemporary political context by projecting an image of the recently executed Robespierre along with other images of the famous dead, such as Voltaire and Rousseau.
Two significant technological developments improved on Robertson's magic lantern. In 1822 Sir Goldsworthy Gurney developed limelight, a source of very bright artificial illumination first used in lighthouses but later put to numerous uses in theater and entertainment, including as a light source for magic lanterns. In the 1830s the magic lanternist Henry Langdon Childe developed the "dissolving view," a process for transitioning from one image to the next by fading in one image as the other fades out.
As magic lantern shows became increasingly popular and prevalent in the 1820s and 1830s, the first photographic images were being created in Europe. In 1826 Joseph-Nicéphore Niepce (1765–1833), a French physicist, began his experimental processes of recording images by a chemical reaction initiated by sunlight hitting a sensitized surface. Though revolutionary in and of themselves, Niepce's images required eight hours of exposure time, were temporary, and lacked detail. Some of these problems were solved by his partner Daguerre, who in 1839 recorded images on a silvered copper plate with an exposure time of half an hour. Popularly known as daguerreotypes, these early photographic images were extremely fragile and had to be contained in decorative cases to protect them from damage. Each daguerreotype was a positive and could not be reproduced except by photographing the original. William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877), an English physicist, established the foundation of modern photography by creating a paper negative (using a sodium chloride emulsion) that could be used for the production of unlimited positive copies. Despite this development, entertainers and magic lanternists were unable to project photographic images until the perfection of the albumen process (patented by John A. Whipple and William B. Jones) and the collodion process (perfected by Frederick Scott Archer) in the late 1840s. These developments allowed the image to be captured on a transparent glass surface, whereas previous processes used opaque paper or copper plates.
In 1851 the brothers William and Frederick Langenheim, noted Philadelphia photographers, projected their photographic slides, initially called hyalotypes, at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London. Their exhibition featured hand-colored images of notable landmarks and locations from around the United States. In the 1860s projected photographic or steropticon slides enjoyed particular commercial and critical success in New York City. As with earlier demonstrations, the slides featured photographs of landscapes, architecture, land-marks, and works of art from all over the world. Other steropticon shows featured images from the Civil War, including photographs of battlefields and military personnel from the Army of the Potomac. Reviewers marveled at the realism and detail of these images; the reality effect of painted magic lantern slides paled in comparison. Indeed, the introduction of photographic slides endowed the projected image with such unprecedented realism that one reviewer for the New York Tribune remarked, "The dead almost appear to speak" (quoted in Charles Musser, p. 31).
Whereas the steropticon displayed life-size images before large audiences, a peephole device called the stereoscope provided photographic views to an individual spectator. The optical research into binary vision carried out by the British physicist Charles Wheatstone and the Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in the 1820s and 1830s led to its invention. The stereoscope featured two pictures of an object or scene that had been photographed twice from slightly different perspectives. When the spectator looked through the peephole, he or she saw a single image in depth. The illusion of three dimensionality was created by the reconciliation of two nonidentical images into a single image, which gave the impression that the pictured views were arranged around receding perspectival planes. The stereoscope became a popular form of parlor entertainment as slides featuring celebrated personalities, landmarks in famous cities, natural wonders, and works of art were produced for home consumption.
By focusing on photographic images of geographically and chronologically distant places and events, the steropticon and the stereoscope, like other advances in modern technology, provided audiences with visual access to far-flung locations that might otherwise take days or weeks to reach by travel. In this respect, these pre-cinematic inventions altered the way audiences experienced time and space. The early cinema would later have even greater power to satisfy—and further instill—the viewer's desire to see astonishingly realistic images that brought the distant near: films displayed images of natural wonders and "exotic" locations unlikely to be visited in person by those who could not afford to travel, sites of recent disasters (such as floods and earthquakes), city street scenes, and important personalities.
The photograph's infinite reproducibility was of signal importance. Hand-painted magic lantern slides were produced individually by skilled painters; each was unique, could not be copied, and took time and money to produce. This limited the number and variety of the slides in each exhibitor's repertoire, causing the demand for new slides to outstrip the supply. The relative ease with which a photographic slide was made and reproduced vastly expanded the number and variety of photographs an exhibitor might display in various thematically oriented "programs," tailored to appeal to a range of audiences and contexts. As would be the case with the first moving picture shows, variety, realism, and the power to alter perceptions of space and time were paramount to the pleasures and profitability of nineteenth-century visual culture. Hence, as Charles Musser has shown, photography brought efficiency, standardization, and profitability to the production and projection of slides, which became a business in its own right and helped create a broader audience for commercialized screen entertainment.
The next step in the development toward moving photographic images required applying the principle of the persistence of vision to the display of a series of photographs depicting the phases of a single motion. This possibility was successfully pursued by the English-born American photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), who became the first photographer to take pictures of subjects in motion. Muybridge's photographs of galloping horses depicted phases of movement normally imperceptible to the human eye and therefore deviated significantly from traditional representations of a horse's gait used by painters for centuries. To emphasize this contrast, Muybridge presented his images alongside artists' depictions of equine motion. Whereas Muybridge's first experiments in series photography aimed to decompose motion to allow otherwise imperceptible phases of movement to become visible to the eye, he next turned to the reconstitution of recorded movement through a mechanism called the zoopraxiscope, which allowed him to project moving images. Zoopraxography, the study of animal movement, should not be confused with motion pictures: the actual images projected were illustrations, not photographs, and the technology Muybridge used simply synthesized older technologies such as the magic lantern and the phenakistoscope.
Between 1884 and 1885 he resumed his experiments in animal locomotion, expanding the range of animals he photographed and refining his methods for producing images. He switched from wet collodion plates to dry plates and re-arranged his cameras into a semicircle around his subject so that photographs of a single motion shot from multiple angles could be taken simultaneously. He also began to photograph athletes as well as mostly unclothed men, women, and children engaged in everyday activities. Muybridge photographed these subjects against a black wall striated by a grid, giving the images themselves a more scientific appearance (though the actions themselves were never measured or quantified).
Muybridge's studies in animal and human locomotion caught the attention of the French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), who was also experimenting with photography to make visible aspects of motion otherwise invisible to the unaided human eye. Even more so than Muybridge, Marey was primarily concerned with the photographic decomposition of motion for the purposes of scientific analysis. Marey photographed phases of human and animal locomotion using a method called chronophotography ("photography of time"). Marey devised an ingenious instrument called the chronophotographic gun, which captured twelve instantaneous photographs per second on a rotating glass plate. However, Marey was displeased with the use of the revolving glass plate because it limited to a set quantity the number of discrete images that could make up a series (a problem when photographing rapid movement, such as a bird in flight). This technical glitch was resolved in 1888 with the invention of paper roll film by the American inventor and industrialist George Eastman (1854–1932); this film, to be used in Eastman's new Kodak box camera, ultimately enabled the chronophotographic gun to take twenty pictures per second. (In 1889 Eastman made transparent celluloid roll film commercially available—the type of film stock ultimately to be used in the making of motion pictures.) However, in order to take clear individual photographs on flexible roll film, Marey had to devise an intermittent mechanism that would allow the filmstrip to pause briefly before the lens to allow each frame to be exposed to light. Some of Marey's human subjects were outfitted in black clothing and photographed against a black background. The subject's arms and legs were embossed with bright white lines that connected to bright white dots at the joints. The results were fairly abstract images of white lines and curves against a dark background. Because he was primarily interested in the dissection of motion, Marey was only minimally interested in reconstituting it through the projection of his images. Ultimately, he was unsuccessful in his attempts to construct a projector.
Around the time Muybridge began his motion studies in the United States, the Frenchman Émile Reynaud (1844–1918), a teacher of mathematics and science, turned his attention to improving optical toys based on the principle of the persistence of vision. In 1877 he built the projecting praxinoscope. In principle, this device was similar to the Zoetrope: its main mechanism was a spinning drum lined with a series of images. However, the praxinoscope made its images visible to viewers through their reflection off of multiple mirrors. Because the images were not seen through slots, the "flicker" effect of other slot-based devices was eliminated. In 1892 Reynaud premiered his exhibition of moving drawings, Théâtre Optique, at the Musée Grévin in Paris. He devised a mirror and lantern mechanism to display rear-projected images onto a screen painted with scenery. Reynaud's images were hand-painted onto long bands of individual frames. These were difficult to produce, and by 1895 he began to use cameras to produce his images. However, Thomas Edison and the Lumière brothers had invented far more practical and simpler devices for projecting moving photographic images, making the praxinoscope obsolete by the end of the century.
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
b. Edward Muggeridge, Kingston-on-Thames, England, 9 April 1830, d. 8 May 1904
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.
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Braun, Marta. Picturing Time: The Work of Étienne-Jules Marey, 1830–1904. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
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Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film. New York: Norton, 2004.
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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.