Pier  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Mutoscope was an early motion picture device, patented by Herman Casler on November 21, 1894. Like Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope it did not project on a screen, and provided viewing to only one person at a time. Cheaper and simpler than the Kinetoscope, the system—marketed by the American Mutoscope Company)—quickly dominated the coin-in-the-slot "peep-show" business. Mutoscopes were a popular feature of amusement arcades and pleasure piers from the 1890s until the mid-20th century. The typical arcade installation included multiple machines offering a mixture of fare. Both in the early days and during the revival, that mixture usually included "girlie" reels which ran the gamut from risqué to outright soft-core pornography. It was, however, common for these reels to have suggestive titles that implied more than the reel actually delivered. The title of one such reel, What the Butler Saw, became a byword, and Mutoscopes are commonly known in England as "What-the-Butler-Saw machines." (What the butler saw, presumably through a keyhole, was a woman partially disrobing.)




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