Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, (April 30, 1820) became an American icon. How? By inventing the motion picture! When I first read about him years ago, I knew someday, somehow, he would be a character in one of my books—and he finally did, in my latest release, When Hearts Fly. (I’m giving an e-copy away today to one commenter, so please leave some words behind before you ride off.)
What made him stand out to me? Well, first of all, was the name change. I grew up with such an odd name myself, I would never have made it worse. But when he came to America in 1850, Edward Muggeridge spelled it Eadweard Muybridge because he believed the archaic spellings were truer to his Old English roots.
However, he took “Helois” as his professional name as a photographic artist in San Francisco where he earned a stellar reputation. In a traveling darkroom, he produced breathtaking landscapes of the West, most famously Yosemite and Alaska.
At thirty, Muybridge suffered a head injury in a stagecoach accident. Changes in his behavior and vision alarmed his friends. It is believed now the accident damaged his frontal cortex, an explanation for his increasingly eccentric behavior…
…which culminated in the cold-blooded, shot-through-the-heart murder of his wife Flora’s lover in 1874. He had become convinced her baby had been fathered by Major Harry Larkins. Although his lawyers used the stagecoach injury in an insanity defense, the jurors didn’t buy it. Nonetheless, they did acquit Muybridge on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
(His penchant for killing an adulterous male is a plot point in my novella, when my hero’s past behavior with Muybridge’s fictional niece is misconstrued.)
The early 1870’s saw the rise of Muybridge’s place in history. Railroad tycoon, former California governor, and soon-to-be-founder of a great University, Leland Stanford hired Eadweard to settle a bet.
A fiery controversy blazed at this time: was there ever a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves left the ground? Prevailing attitudes claimed NO—if horses were meant to fly God would have given them wings.
But Stanford believed differently and wanted Muybridge to capture the moment. However, the moment happened too fast for the human eye to see.
During some five years of experiments at Stanford’s farm in Palo Alto, California, Muybridge’s primitive results did show a horse “in flight” but the results did not survive. Finally, he and Stanford were ready to face the crowds. In June, 1878, at a racetrack at the farm, Muybridge set up 12 cameras with strings tripping the shutters to capture the images against a screen. In front of enthusiastic spectators, a horse named Sallie Gardener proved four feet off the ground.
The achievement was featured in the October 1878 issue of Scientific American.
In 1883, Muybridge went to the University of Pennsylvania to continue his photographic studies of animals—and humans, some nude!—in motion. He had access to the veterinary college and the local zoo. And unclothed athletes as well.
His invention, the zoopraxiscope, showed images on a rotating glass plate projected against a screen. However, the images on the scope, about the size of a dinner plate, had to be drawn on. At that time, they were not his actual photographs. He toured the country and Europe giving demonstrations of “motion pictures.”
Muybridge’s techniques inspired Thomas Edison back then, and still inspire artists and film makers today. He died of cancer in 1904.
Are you a fan of motion pictures? What’s your favorite movie Western?
Innkeeper Cordy Meeker wants a cowboy all her own and to head to the mountains to find him. But she faces financial ruin thanks to her late gambler brother and a hopeless winter of no paying guests. With the bank threatening foreclosure, she needs help fast.
On his way to his family’s holdings in Colorado, British nobleman Hawk Shockley lands in Paradise, Nebraska on a whim, robbed and penniless. Concocting a money-making scheme with the beautiful Cordy is easy, and giving his heart easier, but a woman has gotten him into a pickle before. So…when Eadweard Muybridge threatens to come to town, will a last-minute wedding make things better? Or worse?
Cordy tightened the shawl so she didn’t scream. But cry, never that. No man would ever make her cry again. Not even the foolish banker. Never. Not after Lambert Truefitt. In some way, she would outwit Mr. Pelikan and his ilk at the bank. True, she hadn’t had a guest for weeks. True, her Sunday chicken dinners were wildly popular. But also true, locals hurried home after church before it snowed again.
So bills had mounted. She and her horses had to eat. The mercantile allowed her to pay down her debt of nine dollars and twenty cents two bits at a time.
Clancy. She clenched her fists. A trudge to the cemetery would be muddy, but the urge to kick her brother’s headstone wouldn’t be stifled. Finally, anger outranked grief, relief, and guilt. On her way to the tiny vestibule where she kept her rubber boots, the little counter bell clanged. But she didn’t hurry. With her present luck, it would be Sheriff Pelton arresting her on behalf of her felonious brother, and she couldn’t afford bail. Finally she called out on the fourth ring.
“I’ll be right with you.” Then she tripped on a boot, stumbled, flailed.
And landed in the arms of a man just in time to break her fall. His warmth scented from the outdoors snuggled around her. Cordy managed to toss her arms around his neck. He held her panting form against his mighty chest.
Then her breath stopped. The sight of him heated her blood. Here he was, as if stepping out from a dream. Her Wild West cowboy, with his Stetson and scruffy cheeks and lake-blue eyes she wanted to drown in.
“Are you all right?” His voice rumbled from his chest to her ear. A drawl mixed with someplace else.
“Yes.” She saddened when he broke contact and set her down. He kept hold of her hand, and she practically fell in love on the spot. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“I am Keaton Shockley.” He touched his brim and removed his Stetson. Weather and leather ruffled his rugged coffee-brown hair. “And I’d like to let a room. I must find C. Meeker, proprietor.”
Her heart flipped inside itself. Not only a paying customer, but a handsome one. Oh, and how magnificently that duster tightened around his shoulder muscles when he moved.
“You have found her. I’m Miss Cordelia Meeker. Welcome to my inn.” She held out her hand. Adding the Miss risked her appearing a stuffy spinster, but it was a surefire way to inform him she was unmarried. “But do call me Cordy.” There.
“Do call me Hawk.”
“Hawk?” Oh, so…cowboy!
She sparked to her toes when they touched. He raised the hand he held, slowly, then placed it against his warm lips. “Keaton supposedly means where hawks fly.”