Do you know whether all four hooves of a galloping horse are ever in mid-air at the same time? Do you know which experiment led to the making of motion pictures (movies)? Well, the iconic photograph that you I am going to talk about today will give you both the answers. Until 19 June 1878 no one knew the answer of the first question with complete certainty. It was a popular question of those times and it sparked countless bar-debates. Most people had an opinion about it but no one could prove whether a horse ever lifts all of its four legs during a gallop. By the way, those who don’t know, a horse can move in various ways. Its gait can be of walk, trot, canter, gallop, pace and ambling type. In gallop the horse moves the fastest and it is only in this type of run that the horse lifts all its hooves from ground for a fraction of moment. Now let’s know about the experiment that led to the answer.
Leland Stanford was an American businessman, Governor of California and a race-horse owner. In 1872 Stanford was part of a debate about the above mentioned horse gallop question and he supported the side that said, yes, a galloping horse does indeed lifts all four of its hooves for a fraction of moment. Stanford took it upon himself to scientifically prove his point. In order to do so, he commissioned a professional photographer named Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge worked incessantly for years and in 1877 he managed to take photo of a galloping horse right at the moment when all of its four legs are off the ground. This negative settled the popular question and Stanford felt vindicated. But the negative got lost! And, Muybridge had to begin the work all over again.
On 19 June 1878, Muybridge decided to do an experiment. He rigged a race track with 12 strings and made a race-horse named Sallie Gardner to gallop on the track. Sallie Gardner was a mare owned by Stanford. The galloping horse broke the strings one by one as it went through them. These 12 strings were attached with a series of 12 cameras. The associated camera took a photo as soon as the attached string would break. The result was a series of 12 photos in which 2nd and 3rd photos showed Sallie Gardner’s all hooves off the ground. Once again, Muybridge was successful in answering the horse gallop question. But more importantly Muybridge was able to produce the world’s first motion picture showing a galloping horse by quickly running these 12 photographs in sequence. Muybridge had actually laid the foundation of modern videography.
Here is a modern YouTube video that shows the world’s first motion picture!
That was the story behind the creation of the world first motion picture. Now a few more interesting facts:
- The series of these photographs is also known as The Horse in Motion
- The relationship between Muybridge and Stanford turned sour when Stanford published a book mentioning Muybridge’s research but without giving him credit.
- Muybridge was arrested for killing an army Major who was his wife’s lover. He went to Major’s house and said “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife”; he then killed the Major with a gunshot. Muybridge was later acquitted by the Jury.
- Stanford’s son died in teenage due to typhoid. Leland Stanford and his wife Jane Stanford founded the “Leland Stanford Junior University” in 1891 as a memorial to their son. For this, the couple invested US$20 million (about US$400 million as per 2005 rate). Nowadays, this very university is commonly known as the Standford University.
Alright fellas! This was it. If you’re a horse lover, there is another iconic photograph that features a horse. It is called The Soul of a Horse (or Mare with Foal), photograph clicked by Peter Thomann.
What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.