First Motion Pictures

Photo of early motion pictures.

Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1830. He traveled to the United States in 1852 with the notion of someday changing his name to use the Saxon spelling (he eventually did by 1867). Muybridge worked as a commission merchant for American and English book publishers on the East Coast for a few years before moving to San Francisco. There he worked as a book dealer until 1860, offering finely illustrated American and English works. In that time, Muybridge was elected to the board of directors of San Francisco's Mercantile Library Association, a position of considerable honor.

Although he had worked with photographers in New York and San Francisco, Muybridge himself did not seriously take up the art until sometime between 1861 and 1866, when he was back in England recovering from a near-fatal stagecoach accident. The accident changed him dramatically, in person as well as profession. Treated by a physician known for his belief in "natural therapy"—rest and outdoor activity—Muybridge devoted himself to photography, concentrating on outdoor views as part of his natural therapy. He returned to San Francisco in 1867 as an "artist- photographer," and quickly became one of the foremost landscape and general view photographers on the West Coast.