SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures

Doubleday. 2013. 464p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385525756. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385535496. CRIME
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National Book Award winner Ball's (Slaves in the Family) narrative tells two stories about motion-studies photographer Edward Muybridge: his role in an 1874 murder and his work in creating moving pictures. This wonderfully illustrated and well-researched book takes readers on a journey from the photographer's beginnings in England (he was then known as Ted Muggeridge) to his rise to fame once he exhibited moving pictures for the first time. Ball pairs this with the story of Muybridge's benefactor, Leland Stanford, a railroad-magnate millionaire and founder of Stanford University. For this narrative, the ample use of Muybridge's photographs and other contemporary images are especially revealing of the world that the photographer and Stanford inhabited in Gilded Age California, where murder could be justified and defended. Muybridge found greater fame after the murder and subsequent trial—fame that stemmed from his photographic work, not his scandal-ridden personal life.
VERDICT This is a story of transformation and of the drive that many 19th-century Americans felt to write their own stories. Recommended for general readers, historical true-crime buffs, and those interested in the history of photography and motion pictures.

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