Friday, February 5, 2016

Ohio - Birthplace of Motion Picture

Today we celebrate the great Ohioan who invented motion picture on this date in history 1861! Thomas Alva Edison of Milan OH...right?
Sorry. Nope. Edison was 14 in 1861. Tom did his thing 30 years later. 

Samuel D. Goodale
I'm talking about Samuel D. Goodale of Cincinnati OH! 

Most folks tend to think of inventions as having a sole inventor. We envision an eccentric man with crazy hair doing experiments who finally has the "eureka" moment. He unveils it to the world. Fame and fortune result! Conventional wisdom states that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Edison invented the light bulb. Marconi invented the radio. Doc Brown invented time travel. Right? OK, maybe that last one is a movie stereotype and partly why we believe these things.

As usual the story is not so simple. Typically what happens is the world hits a technological zeitgeist. Let's take a quick look at the development of the airplane as an example. The invention and popularity of the safety bicycle was instrumental in funding the bicycle shop owning Wright Brothers research. It furthered their ability to control their glider too. If a light enough internal combustion engine had not been invented, the Wrights never could have powered that glider. Ergo, no controlled powered flight by the Wrights. Dayton Ohio would have had to come up with different people to name everything after. The fact is the person who gets the credit is usually the one who patents the invention and makes it commercially viable. People didn't even believe the Wright Brothers claims at first. The Dayton news didn't report on it in 1903. After more tinkering Orville and Wilbur patented their "flying machine" in 1906 three years after KItty Hawk. This resulted in a patent war with competitors and there were many lawsuits. Someone even joked that if a person jumped in the air and waved his arms, the Wrights would sue. 
Goodale's 1861 Stereoscope patent

If you Google "who invented motion picture", you will get various results. Thomas Edison, Louis Lumiere, or Eadweard Muybridge, all top out the list from the late 19th century. These men certainly made their contributions but they built on the work of now forgotten pioneers.
Decades earlier, as the US Civil War was beginning and as photography was being perfected and optics were getting better, several different inventors experimented with viewers or scopes that provided an individual photographic "peep show" of simulated motion.
The first patent, US #31,310, for one of these "moving picture" devices was granted on February 5th 1861 to a Cincinnati inventor named Samuel D. Goodale. He called his invention a Stereoscope, a crank-driven machine that used flickering photographic cards to simulate motion to a single viewer. This was just one of many similar devices patented around that time. I suppose there was a patent war going on here too because Coleman Sellers' device, called the Kinematoscope, was patented 47 numbers later the very same day as US #31,357. Sellers, who tends to get more credit in this history, also lived in Cincinnati in the 1850s before moving to Philadelphia. Sellers and Goodale had to of known of each others work right? Hmm. Was this perhaps the VHS vs Betamax War of the era?

Edison's 1895 Kinetoscope
looks like Goodale's
Stereoscope and named
similar to Sellers'
Kinematoscope. Hmm.
Nine years later, in 1870 on...February 5th (remember Goodale and Sellers?) in Philadelphia (remember Sellers, again?), inventor Henry Heyl demonstrated his Phasmatrope (what a great name). 1,500 theatergoers were treated to the sight of Heyl and his niece dancing on a big screen as a 40-piece orchestra accompanied the moving images with a waltz. I'd like to think the February 5th date was planned as a nod to Goodale and/or Sellers but it's likely happenstance. Inventors generally don't like to share credit.

Now granted, it varies on what one might consider a "motion picture". Magic lanterns and novelty toys that gave the illusion of motion to the viewer were in use as early as the 17th century but it was photography that kicked things into gear. The point here is to illustrate that no single person invented the "motion picture". It was a process and some inventors simply got left out of the narrative altogether. So, let's settle the timeline a bit:

1861 - Goodale's Stereoscope (& Sellers' Kinematoscope) is patented.
1870 - Heyl's Phasmatrope debuts to the public (patented in 1867).
1878 - Muybridge's famous "A Horse in Motion" is shown with his Zoopraxiscope.
1891 - Edison's Kinetoscope is demonstrated (not patented until 1897).
1895 - Lumiere's Cinematographe is patented and shows a film to the public.

Did you notice that a generation and a half separate Goodale from Edison? One thing is true. The names of those things are just awesome. Phasmatrope? Zoopraxiscope? That's good stuff. Edison is known to have begun working on motion pictures after seeing a lecture by Eadweard Muybridge who no doubt knew of the others. Like the Wright's, Thomas Edison filed many infringement lawsuits against his competitors in the late 19th century. The courts ruled he had an unfair monopoly. By 1918 Edison abandoned his involvement with motion picture. 

And what of Samuel D. Goodale? I can't even find a photo of him or his invention, just the patent drawing. He barely gets a mention, or he is left out entirely of the history of cinema altogether. He doesn't get a Wikipedia entry. 
1876 toy pistol patent
But I believe I cracked the Goodale case just a little. 
I found a reference to a "Samuel Dexter Goodale" born in Massachusetts on May 11th 1817. Samuel Dexter Goodale was also granted a toy pistol patent in February 1876 while living in Du Quoin IL. He is listed as "Samuel D.Goodale" in another patent publication for the toy pistol.
According to the OCR text of the Sunday, April 6, 1884 Cincinnati Enquirer a "Samuel D. Goodale" died in Du Quoin IL in 1884. The obituary mentions an event in Texas (which seceded Feb 1 1861): "during the early part of the war he had a personal encounter with a Texan, growing out of a political discussion, which resulted in his receiving a wound in the leg. As soon as he was able to walk he returned to Cincinnati, and engaged in business here as an optician until he retired a few years ago from active pursuits, and went to Du Quoin to live. The paralysis which caused his death was ascribed to the wound in his leg." This S.D.G. was moved to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati by his family in 1918. Records there confirm his cause of death as "paralysis - effect of a gun shot wound"Are these two Samuel D. Goodale's one in the same? The name, age, years, locations, and occupations certainly seem to suggest this. Perhaps his injury and resulting paralysis in the early 1860s is why his legacy faded. Also noteworthy is that the infamous Cincinnati Courthouse Riots occurred in late March 1884, a week before Goodale's death. The Hamilton County Courthouse and all of its important records were burned in that event. Cincinnati lost a lot of history that day.

artist rendering of a wound up Texan
Nevertheless, we do know a Cincinnatian named Samuel D. Goodale is an unsung pioneer in the development of motion pictures. He just didn't get any of the glory thanks to Edison and possibly a wound up Texan with a real pistol.