The Mutoscope; an appreciation


Arcade Mutoscope, circa 1900

In an earlier article, I wrote about toy Magic Lanterns (see: "Toy Magic Lanterns; a 19th century high tech toy"). They were an early precursor to movies,  using light projected from a kerosene wick to illuminate images. In this article I want to consider the Mutoscope, another ancestor to the movies, which mechanically flipped cards to show a moving picture show. 


Mutoscope Interior

We are today familiar with the concept through "flip books". With a flip book, you can create your own cartoon show by drawing a character in slightly shifting poses on a pad of paper. By flicking the pages off of the finger tips, a moving picture emerges. That is essentially how a Mutoscope functioned albeit using a crank to turn the pictures.

Like all technology, the Mutoscope eventually ended up as a toy. Its such a simple idea, its surprising no one has brought it back.


Playland Toy  Mutoscope by Admiral, circa 1950's 


Toy Mutoscope, Irwin, circa 1950's


Art Nouveau Mutoscope, circa 1900


Disney Licensed, cardboard Mutoscope that appears to be a promotion by Pepsodent toothpaste


One thought

  1. Ahhh… Great article, Richard. For those in my age bracket (Boomer), many may recall that when Disneyland first opened, and as best as I can recall as late as the mid-60’s, there was an old fashioned “Penny Arcade” on Main Street…. where among many gorgeous antique attractions, there was a whole row of Mutoscopes and other similar devices. Haven’t been there is years, so I hope that the heads of Disney, Inc have saved them and that they are either in Disney World or at least in storage. Thanks for the trip down memory Lane!

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