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Dead medium: Anschutz's 'Electrical Wonder' arcade peepshow; Anschutz's Schnellseher; Anschutz's Projecting Electrotachyscope; Anschutz's Zoetropes
From: (Stephen Herbert)
Source(s): "Ottomar Anschutz and his Electrical Wonder," by Deac Rossell (The Projection Box, 1997)

The full role of Ottomar Anschutz in the story of the first moving pictures is not well known. In 1892, two years before Edison's peepshow Kinetoscope was first shown in public, Ottomar Anschutz' acclaimed moving photographs were being exhibited in arcade machines == the 'Electrical Wonder' == in Europe and America.

By 1894 his 'Projecting Electrotachyscope' was projecting moving sequences of animals and human figures, very brief but of fine quality, onto large screens in Germany; the world's first publicly projected photographic (unposed) motion pictures.

Anschutz was a well-known photographer who specialized in fast exposures, taken with a shutter of his own design. By 1883 his ability to capture natural movement was being compared favourably with the work of Muybridge and Marey, but at that time he was taking individual photographs. By late 1884 he was shooting chronophotographs of the finest quality with a battery of twelve cameras; taking twelve photos in half a second. By 1886 his equipment consisted of a battery of 24 cameras with electrically linked shutters operated by an electrical metronome. Subjects included horses trotting, galloping, and jumping.

His viewing machines, all of the seven or eight models bearing the name Schnellseher, were developed from 1886. The first had a wooden disc with 20 or 24 glass positives fixed onto it; a Geissler tube fashioned into a spiral form (and powered by a Ruhmhorff induction coil fed from batteries) was the light source. This flashed briefly as each picture passed the viewing aperture.

A later model was a coin-operated automatic machine made in Germany by Siemens & Halske, and exhibited publicly in 1892/3 in London, and at Koster & Bial's Music Hall and the Eden Musee in New York City. Celluloid transparencies were set into metal discs. The number of images varied, depending on the nature of the subject.

In November 1894, a Projecting Electrotachyscope ('Life-Sized Moving Pictures') was exhibited in Berlin, and later in Hamburg. This consisted of two large picture discs, each holding twelve images, and moved intermittently by a twelve-arm maltese cross.

Anschutz also developed a number of interesting zoetropes (Tachyscopes) that made use of his sequence pictures.

'Ottomar Anschutz and his Electrical Wonder', by Deac Rossell (The Projection Box, 1997). An A5 illustrated booklet. Now being distributed in USA and elsewhere.For ordering details, e-mail:

Stephen Herbert (