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"Abe Edgington," owned by Leland Stanford; driven by C. Marvin, trotting at a 2-24 gait over the Palo Alto track, 15th June, 1878
"Sallie Gardner," owned by Leland Stanford; ridden by G. Domm, running at a 1.40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June, 1878 (1878 cabinet card, "untouched" version from original negatives)

The Horse in Motion is a series of cabinet cards by Eadweard Muybridge, including six cards that each show a sequential series of six to twelve "automatic electro-photographs" depicting the movement of a horse. Muybridge shot the photographs in June 1878. A seventh card reprinted the single image of the horse "Occident" trotting at high speed, already published by Muybridge in 1877.

The series and later experiments like it can be regarded as an important step in the development of motion pictures.[1]

Muybridge's work was commissioned by Leland Stanford, the industrialist and horseman, who was interested in gait analysis. The purpose of the project was to determine whether a galloping horse ever lifts all four feet completely off the ground during the gait; at this speed, the human eye cannot break down the action.[2] The photographs showed that all four feet are indeed sometimes simultaneously off the ground, though this occurs only when the feet are "gathered" beneath the body, not when the fore and hindlimbs are "extended" as sometimes depicted in older paintings.

The cardsEdit

Card with "Sallie Gardner" in an altered 1879 edition

The cards were published by Morse's gallery from San Francisco and copyrighted 1878 by Muybridge.

title frames date plate
"Abe Edgington," owned by Leland Stanford; driven by C. Martin, trotting at a 2:24 gait over the Palo Alto track, 15th June 1878. 12 15-06-1878 34
"Abe Edgington," owned by Leland Stanford; trotting at an 8-minute gait over the Palo Alto track, 18th June 1878. 8 18-06-1878 28
"Abe Edgington," owned by Leland Stanford; driven by C. Martin, walking at a 15-minute gait over the Palo Alto track, 18th June 1878. 8 18-06-1878 8
"Mahomet," owned by Leland Stanford; ridden by G. Domm, cantering at an 8-minute gait over the Palo Alto track, 17th June 1878. 6 17-06-1878 16
"Sallie Gardner," owned by Leland Stanford; ridden by G. Domm, running at a 1:40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June 1878. 12 19-06-1878 43
"Occident," owned by Leland Stanford; driven by C. Martin, trotting at a 2:20 gait over the Palo Alto track, 20th June 1878. 12 20-06-1878 35

(Plate numbers refer to the versions published in Muybridge's The Attitudes of Animals in Motion in 1881)

A cabinet card with a single picture of "Occident" trotting over the Sacramento track in July 1877 was reprinted as part of the series.

There are several editions of the cards with some notable differences. A 1879 edition of the "Sallie Gardner" card has the images quite heavily edited to render them as pure dark contours, with straight lines and clear numbers as a background instead of the original photographic background.

One version of "Abe Edgington" at a 2.24 gait appeared with the title The Stride of a Trotting Horse instead of The Horse in Motion, with a date of 11th June 1878 instead of 15th June 1878 and "over Mr. Stanford's race track, at Menlo Park" instead of "over the Palo Alto track".[3]

The cards were also released in Germany as Das Pferd in Bewegung and in France as Les Allures du Cheval.


Occident. Owned by Leland Stanford. Driven by Jas. Tennant. (1877 cabinet card)

Leland Stanford had a large farm at which he bred, trained and raced both Standardbreds, used for trotting races in which a driver rides in a sulky while driving the horse; and Thoroughbreds, ridden by jockeys and raced at a gallop. He was interested in improving the performance of his horses of both types and in the scientific questions of their gait action.

Muybridge was hired in 1873 when Stanford wanted a photograph of his favorite trotter Occident in action. Initially Muybridge believed it was impossible to get a good picture of a horse in full motion, but after a few failed attempts managed to get a satisfactory result.[4]

During July 1877, the photographer Muybridge tried to settle Stanford's question with a series of progressively clearer, single photographs of Stanford's trotter, Occident, at a racing-speed gait[5] at the Union Park Racetrack in Sacramento, California.[6][7] He captured the horse in a photograph with all four feet off the ground. One of the prints was sent to the local California press, but because they found that the film negative was retouched, the press dismissed it. As negative retouching was an acceptable and common practice at the time, the photograph won Muybridge an award at the Twelfth San Francisco Industrial Exhibition.[8] Lantern slides of the trotting horse photographs survive.[9]

The following year, Stanford financed Muybridge's next project: to use multiple cameras to photograph a Thoroughbred at a gallop at Stanford's farm in Palo Alto on June 15, 1878, in the presence of the press.[10][11] Muybridge photographed the businessman's Kentucky-bred mare named Sallie Gardner running.[12][13][14]

Plate CVI from Stillman's The Horse in Motion, showing Muybridge's arrangement of 24 cameras for instantaneous photography

He had arranged the cameras along a track parallel to the horse's path. Muybridge used 24 cameras[15] which were 27 inches (69 cm)[16] apart. The shutters were controlled by trip wires triggered by the horse's legs. The photographs were taken in succession one twenty-fifth of a second apart, with the shutter speeds calculated to be less than 1/2000 s. The jockey Domm set the mare to travel at a speed of 1:40, which meant that she was galloping at a mile per 1 minute and 40 seconds, equivalent to 36 miles per hour (58 km/h).[17][18]

The stop-action photographs showed the mare lifted all four legs off the ground at certain points during the gallop. Muybridge produced the negatives onsite; when the press noticed the broken straps on Sallie's saddle in the negatives, they became convinced of the prints' authenticity[citation needed].

While there have been rumors that Stanford had a large bet riding on the suspected outcome that the study would show that a horse at moments has all legs of the ground when running, the historian Phillip Prodger has said, "I personally believe that the story of the bet is apocryphal. There are really no primary accounts of this bet ever having taken place. Everything is hearsay and secondhand information."[1]


The images of two of the cards were recreated as an engraving for the cover of the October 19 issue of Scientific American in 1878.[19]

An animation of the photo series
A different galloping horse, Annie G., animated in 2006, using plate 626 published in Muybridge's Animal Locomotion in 1887

In 1880, Muybridge started projecting moving painted versions of his recordings with his zoopraxiscope when he gave a presentation at the California School of Fine Arts;[20] this was the earliest known motion picture exhibition. He later met with Thomas Edison, who had recently invented the phonograph. Edison went on to invent the kinetoscope, the precursor of the movie camera.[21]

The relationship between Muybridge and Stanford became turbulent in 1882. Stanford commissioned the book The Horse in Motion: as Shown by Instantaneous Photography, written by his friend and horseman J. D. B. Stillman; it was published by Osgood and Company.[9][22] The book claimed to feature instantaneous photography, but showed 100 illustrations based on Muybridge's photographs.[23] Muybridge was not credited in the book except noted as a Stanford employee and in a technical appendix based on an account he had written. As a result, Britain's Royal Society of Arts, which earlier had offered to finance further photographic studies by Muybridge of animal movement, withdrew the funding. His suit against Stanford to gain credit was dismissed out of court.[22]

Muybridge soon gained support for two years of studies under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania.[24] The university published his current and previous work as an extensive portfolio of 780 collotype plates, under the title Animal Locomotion: An Electro-photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements, 1872–1885. The collotype plates measured 19 by 24 inches, each were contained in 36 by 36-inch frames; the total number of images were approximately 20,000. The published plates included 514 of men and women in motion, 27 plates of abnormal male and female movement, 16 of children, 5 plates of adult male hand movement, and 221 with animal subjects.

The "Sallie Gardner" experiment was the subject of a Google doodle on April 9, 2012 (on the 182nd anniversary of Muybridge's birthday).[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b John Sanford (February 12, 2003). "Cantor exhibit showcases motion-study photography". Stanford Report. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  2. ^ "SALLIE GARDNER". Film in America. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Daily Alta California 1874-04-07
  5. ^ Sevenson, Richard (September 2007). "Muybridge Meets Occident". Prosper Magazine. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  6. ^ Matt Weiser (August 2, 2011). "Sacramento neighborhood considered for historic status". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  7. ^ Mitchell Leslie, "The Man Who Stopped Time", Stanford Magazine, May–June 2001
  8. ^ "THE COMPLEAT EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE: CHRONOLOGY 1876–1880 (Also in 1878:)". Stephen Herbert. Retrieved February 4, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Capturing the Moment", p. 1, Freeze Frame: Eadward Muybridge's Photography of Motion, October 7, 2000 – March 15, 2001, National Museum of American History, accessed April 9, 2012
  10. ^ Clegg, Brian (2007). The Man Who Stopped Time. Joseph Henry Press. ISBN 978-0-309-10112-7.
  11. ^ Muybridge, Eadweard; Mozley, Anita Ventura (foreword) (1887). Muybridge's Complete Human and Animal Locomotion: All 781 Plates from the 1887 Animal Locomotion. Courier Dover Publications. p. xvii. ISBN 9780486237923. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  12. ^ "Eadweard Muybridge: Jumping a hurdle; saddle; bay horse Daisy". Worcester Art Museum. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  13. ^ "Static Instructional Graphics" (PDF). Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  14. ^ "The horse in motion, illus. by Muybridge. "Sallie Gardner,"". Pop Art Machine. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ "Eadweard J. Muybridge — one of the original men in motion — celebrated with a Google Doodle". National Post. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  16. ^ "The Making of Muybridge Reanimator". 1 Reality. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  17. ^ Armitage, Edward. Lectures on Painting. University of Hawaii Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-4437-6991-4.
  18. ^ "Thematic Divisions of Images" (PDF). UNCA. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  19. ^ "Freeze Frame: Eadweard Muybridge's Photography of Motion". National Museum of American History. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  20. ^ "Eadward Muybridge (1830–1904)". International Photography Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  21. ^ "Chapter 11". Precinema History. Retrieved February 4, 2010.
  22. ^ a b Leslie, Mitchell. "The Man Who Stopped Time". Stanford Alumni Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  23. ^ "Still J.D.B." Biodiversity Heritage Library. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  24. ^ Gordon (2010). "Prestige, Professionalism, and the Paradox of Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion Nudes". Pennsylvania Museum of History and Biography. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  25. ^ "Eadweard J. Muybridge's 182nd Birthday". Retrieved April 17, 2012.

External linksEdit