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The Peninsula: Birthplace of Film?

There exists much speculation as to the birthplace of motion pictures.

There exists much speculation as to the birthplace of motion pictures. Many will suggest it was Hollywood. However, one such view which may have been absent from what you’ve read and heard is a very local story. For example, how about none other than Leland Stanford, whose son the esteemed university was named after?

Indeed, then Senator Stanford was at the very center of this.

It seems, the genesis of the issue was an argument. The point of disagreement was surrounding a bet Stanford had with a gentleman named Fred MaCrellish. What was the issue you ask? At issue was whether a galloping horse had at least one hoof touching the ground at all times, or were all four in the air simultaneously?

MaCrellish was of the opinion that at least one hoof maintained contact with the ground at all times. Stanford argued all four were in the air simultaneously.

A renowned photographer named Eadweard Muybridge was summoned by Stanford to conduct an experiment to determine the truth.

Muybridge chose the Stanford Stock Farm for the location. He spared nothing in his effort to flush out the facts.

Twenty-four of the most expensive cameras were placed one after another on a setting of 40 feet in length.

The elaborate experiment took place in 1878. Once completed, it was indeed confirmed that all four hooves were off the ground simultaneously. Stanford had prevailed with his bet. The actual amount of the bet was never confirmed, although rumors were it ranged from $5,000 up to $50,000.

More experiments followed over the next several years. They included other animals as well. Eventually, a book called “A Horse in Motion” was published. The book did not get much attention, however the concept of “motion pictures” certainly did.

Out of all this came more experiments along with the invention of a machine called a Zoopraxiscope, which gave motion to pictures.

Over time, the concept of motion pictures evolved into the mutli-billion dollar industry of today.

Yet, the raw birthplace of the concept turns out to be quite local.

Everything else is just history.

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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