A Peep Inside the Mutoscope

When it launched the mutoscope commercially in 1897, the American Mutoscope Co. offered a selection of scenes like Les Parisiennes (Parisienne Girls, 1897), in which female performing artists displayed relatively immodest specialties. As a peephole device, the mutoscope lent itself to entertainments that could be presented and viewed privately, and it had the advantage over other machines of displaying separately mounted pictures controlled by a hand crank: “[T]he spectator,” reported one New York newspaper, “has the performance entirely under his control. . . . [I]f he so elects, the entertainment can be stopped by him at any point in the series and each separate picture inspected at leisure.”

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