July 15th, 2017
Leland Stanford & Cinema
In case you didn’t know, our namesake Leland Stanford has deep roots in California. Leland Stanford was born in New York in 1824 and migrated to California during the Gold Rush. He had a huge impact on the state.
He’s the same Stanford of Stanford University; he served two terms as Calif. Governor and eight years as its state senator. He was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, he owned wineries and vineyards in the Bay Area, was a tycoon and industrialist, and in U.S. history books is referred to as one of our prominent robber barons of the time.
The site of his elegant mansion that burned down after the 1906 earthquake is where Stanford Court Hotel sits today.
But did you know Leland Stanford is also behind what eventually became the motion picture?
A lover of horses, Stanford had a theory about the gait of horses, which he was intrigues by. He believed that when a horse runs, there’s a moment when all its hooves leave the ground. There was no way to prove this theory with the naked eye; his colleagues and friends disputed his claim, saying one hoof is always on the ground.
Stanford had the means to fund an experiment that tested his theory. He commissioned English photographer Eadweard Muybridge to capture photos of his horse Sallie in gallop. Muybridge, after taking many photos of horses running over the years, eventually set up trip wires triggered by the horse’s legs. The 12 cameras yielded 12 photos of Sallie’s gait, which showed the moment her hooves in fact all left the ground at the same time.
After developing the series of photos, Muybridge later presented his work at the California School of Fine Arts in 1880. It was the earliest exhibition of its kind. Many attribute this as the first silent film; the precursor to motion picture as we know it today.
In our recent #Reboot you will see we have honored Stanford's love of horses in elements throughout our lobby.