The Last Zoopraxiscope Show?

Photographer / publisher: William Vick, Ipswich, England. Date: c.1890.

Original cabinet card in ‘California Faces: Selections from The Bancroft Library Portrait Collection’,

The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Nothing is known about the reception of Muybridge’s presentations in his Zoopraxographical Hall at the Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) in 1893. A summer lecture, in one of the other buildings, was reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune on 3 August:

TALK TO EMPTY SEATS. TECHNICAL LEARNING IN MANY CONGRESSES FAILS TO ATTRACT – In the evening the Congress on Painting and Sculpture listened to an address on “Copperplate Engraving” by Frederick Keppel of New York, illustrated by the stereopticon, and a paper on “The Science of Animal Locomotion in Its Relation to Design in Art,” by Edward Muybridge. The attendance was not large.

The following summer (1894), Muybridge was back in England, and in May 1895 he sent out a brochure, The Motion of the Horse and other animals, in Nature and in Art, announcing a lecture season ‘from October next [i.e. 1895] until March 1896′, to be illustrated with ’40 new zoopraxiscopic projecting discs’.

Later that year he sent out a circular dated October 1st 1895, stating that he could accept ‘no further engagements … before February 96.’

I have been able to find very few references to lectures during this 1895 season. Some time ago I discovered brief details of a previously unknown lecure: On 14 October ’95 he presented ‘Animals in Motion’ at a school in the South of England. (Research on this lecture still continuing.) That same month, advertisements appeared in the Ipswich Journal, and a promotional paragraph:

Ipswich Journal Saturday October 12, 1895 p.5

Through the instrumentality of Mr. W. Vick and a local committee, a unique entertainment will take place in the Ipswich Town Hall, on Wednesday, October 16th. It will consist of a lecture and demonstration by Mr. Eadweard Muybridge, of the University of Pennsylvania, on the motion of men and other animals in art; and illustrated with the Zoopraxiscope [etc].

‘Mr. W. Vick’ was local photographer William Vick, who had photographed Muybridge – most likely during his previous visit in 1890.

I have recently found a report of the lecture:

East Anglian Daily Times Thursday 17 October 1895 p.5

In art there has always been a great uncertainty as to the exact motions of animals and the manner in which they are executed. It was, in fact, left to photography to definitely settle the question. Instantaneous photography of today cannot lie, and bringing this to his aid, Mr. Eadweard Muybridge, of the University of Pennsylvania, has established a number of interesting facts. These he placed before a fairly large audience on Wednesday night in the Ipswich Public Hall, the Mayor (Dr. J.H. Bartlet) presiding. In introducing Mr. Muybridge, Dr. Bartlet remarked that he lectured in Ipswich five years ago, when everyone present derived the greatest pleasure, with the exception perhaps of those among the audience who discovered that in their animal painting they had committed many mistakes….[etc]

A cordial vote of thanks was passed to the lecturer on the proposition of Mr. D. Favel Goddard, M.P., seconded by Mr. Herman Biddell.

The Zoopraxiscope was used during the lecture. Despite Muybridge stating in his May ’95 brochure that lectures would include ‘40 new zoopraxiscopic projecting discs’, there is no mention of this in the lecture report. Since the new discs were in colour, and different from those shown in Ipswich in 1890 (and this would have been a selling point for those promoting the lecture), it seems safe to conclude that Muybridge did not show the colour discs. A few years later, he tried to arrange for the negatives of the new discs to be destroyed.

It seems then, that Muybridge used his earlier black-and-white discs exclusively, right up to the end of his lecturing career. Muybridge was ‘accepting no further engagements until February 1896’, but early in 1896 he was in Boston on business concerning the Animal Locomotion negatives, did not apparently give lectures in the USA at that time, and would not return to England until (circa) May 1897.

Some time during the Summer or early Autumn of 1897, Muybridge gave his last known talk to the St Ives Arts Club, Cornwall, but this was almost certainly a slide show only – without the Zoopraxiscope.

It may be that this recently discovered Ipswich booking in October 1895 was in fact his last public lecture with the Zoopraxiscope, as no further references to lectures during this period have been found.

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