The Mutograph

In April 1897, the cover of Scientific American featured a picture of the battery-driven mutograph camera as it filmed a train approaching at 60 miles an hour (left). When ready for shooting, the camera itself (right) was housed in a cabinet together with its storage batteries and assembled, along with an electric motor, on a base stand and turntable. Because the unit was so ponderous, the series of views constituting Biograph programs tended to reflect the same convenient camera position. To provide some variety, the company was careful to organize programs so that the content of successive subjects displayed some contrast. The high speed of the camera helped eliminate the “flicker” that still plagued many projection systems of the time and also improved the quality of unstaged images—such as onrushing trains—that had to be captured with available light. By mid-1897, the brand name Mutograph had largely given way to Biograph, and the firm soon became better known as the Biograph Co.; the name was changed officially in 1909.

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