Mechanical Music Through the Ages

A collection of Mechanical Music and Arcade Machines – highlighting examples of the development in mechanical entertainment over time.

Mutoscope 1898 – (UK)

The original Mutoscope models which appeared in 1897 had wooden cabinets which were often mounted on cast iron column stands and had cast iron marquees of a triangular pyramid shape. These pointed towards the front and rear with advertising cards on the front and back describing the reel currently installed on the Mutoscope. The marquee was mounted on the top of the machine over a glass section in the top of the cabinet. Sometimes they had a kerosene/paraffin lamp inside  the marquee which was used to light the pictures on the Mutoscope reel. They may have also lit the advertising signs from behind. Alternately the Mutoscopes would have had a low voltage lamp inside the cabinet of the machine above the reel of pictures which lit these pictures and also lit the advertising signs from behind in which case they would have been of sheets of paper rather than the usual cardboard. These models came in a variety of similar designs.

These Mutoscopes were followed by the cast iron model Mutoscopes. The first American cast iron Mutoscope the Clam Shell model that appeared in 1899 used a small marquee containing a card which was again used to advertise the reel fitted to the machine at the time.

Early British/French cast iron Mutoscopes which appeared in 1888/9 used large tall signs, but these were soon replaced by marquees and signs similar to the ones used on the wooden Mutoscopes which could be seen from the front and rear of the machine. 

The Clam Shell Mutoscope was followed in 1906 by the Type E Indian Head Mutoscope. This Mutoscope used a card of the same size and proportion as the smaller Clam Shell Mutoscopes, 30 by 21 centimetres (11¾ by 8¼ inches) and became the standard for many years. This model and type of marquee, but with an unadorned back also became the standard marquee type for the British, French and German Mutoscopes.

The Mutoscope below has had a twelve volt power pack and lamp fitted inside the cast iron housing for illumination purposes.