Who Was Eadweard Muybridge?
The Good Stuff
On June 15, 1878, a clear and sunny day in Palo Alto, California, amid a gathering of art and sports journalists, Eadweard Muybridge photographed the first successful serial images of fast motion.
The subject of these photographs was the trotting horse, Abe Edgington, harnessed to a sulky. The horse was owned by railroad builder and former governor, Leland Stanford. Proven was Stanford's theory that during a horse's running stride, there is a moment of suspension where no hooves are touching the ground.
What had begun as a topic of unresolvable debate among artists and horse enthusiasts now launched a new era in photography, and the birth of the motion picture.
The Bad Stuff
From The Sacromento Bee
On Feb. 2, 1944, Florado Helios Muybridge, 69, a Sacramento gardener, died from injuries he received a few days before when he was hit by a car while crossing a street.
Sacramento real estate agent William P. Carmody arranged for a Catholic funeral through W.F. Gormley & Sons mortuary, and Mr. Muybridge was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery on 21st Avenue at 65th Street.
There is no marker, and the lonely burial in the unmarked grave might have been the end of the tale, but it turns out that the unmourned gardener was the disowned son of a photographer whose work is widely known even now.
The story emerged from research for a new biography of former Gov. Leland Stanford just completed by historian Norman Tutorow, a researcher at the Hoover Institution.
In the two-volume work, "The Governor," to be published in the spring, Florado's father, Eadweard Muybridge, is featured in a chapter, "The First Motion Picture."
Eadweard Muybridge was the photographer commissioned by Stanford to make what is regarded as the first-ever movie - a series of photos proving that all of a trotting horse's hoofs are off the ground at once.
In researching that aspect of Stanford's life, Tutorow unearthed the sad story of Florado.
Florado's mother, Flora, was a 20-year-old divorcée in 1871 when she and his 41-year-old father were married in San Francisco. One writer of the time described her as a "very fine looking woman, worldly and of a passionate temperament."
In addition, she often found herself neglected as her husband pursued his career.
Enter a fellow Tutorow calls "a thoroughgoing scoundrel," Harry Larkyns.
One contemporary account called him a "handsome, dashing man of the world." He was a British soldier of fortune who had been a major in the French Army and worked as a drama critic and reporter for the San Francisco Post.
Harry and Flora were seen together on the town when Muybridge was away. One time, Muybridge discovered that they had been together at the theater, confronted them separately and got both to promise to quit seeing each other.
Then, on April 16, 1874, Florado was born. Muybridge thought little of letters being passed between his wife and her nurse, Susan Smith, but six months later he visited Smith to pay a bill and noticed a photo of little Florado.
Except it was inscribed "little George Harry" by his mother instead of "little Florado Helios." Muybridge questioned Smith and learned the lurid details of a lengthy affair.
Enraged, he grabbed a five-shot Smith & Wesson revolver and tracked Larkyns down in Calistoga where he was playing cards. He called him out, then announced, "I am Muybridge and this is a message from my wife," and shot him dead.
Muybridge was arrested and paid his own room and board in Napa while he awaited trial for murder. On Feb. 6, 1875, a jury acquitted him on grounds of justifiable homicide.
"The question of the son's paternity must have plagued Muybridge in those pre-DNA days," said Tutorow, noting that the next mention of Florado comes on Sept. 16, 1876, when his father placed the 2-year-old in the San Francisco Protestant Orphan Asylum.
From there, in 1884, 10-year-old Florado was sent as a foster child to the James F. Haggin Ranch, the vast Rancho Del Paso, at Sacramento, where he was still listed as a hostler in 1896.
His father, meanwhile, traveled the world with his photography. He had been born in 1830 in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, and returned there to die in 1904. He left his photos and his machine for viewing moving pictures to the borough of Kingston. Florado got nothing.
According to burial records at Gormley's mortuary, Florado was single, not a veteran and had no survivors. The records do not indicate his relationship to Carmody, who arranged the funeral, but it was not close enough that he wanted to include a tombstone.
So Tutorow and his wife, Evie, are arranging to buy a tombstone.
"It just seems the proper thing to do," Tutorow said. "We consider these people (in the cemeteries) our friends after we've studied them so long, and Florado certainly deserves this much."
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