The Mutoscope; an appreciation

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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. 

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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.

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Playland Toy  Mutoscope by Admiral, circa 1950's 

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Toy Mutoscope, Irwin, circa 1950's

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Art Nouveau Mutoscope, circa 1900

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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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