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The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures [Kindle Edition]

Edward Ball
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.
One hundred and thirty years ago Eadweard Muybridge invented stop-motion photography, anticipating and making possible motion pictures. He was the first to capture time and play it back for an audience, giving birth to visual media and screen entertainments of all kinds. Yet the artist and inventor Muybridge was also a murderer who killed coolly and meticulously, and his trial is one of the early instances of a media sensation. His patron was railroad tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, whose particular obsession was whether four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground at once. Stanford hired Muybridge and his camera to answer that question. And between them, the murderer and the railroad mogul launched the age of visual media.
Set in California during its frontier decades, The Tycoon and the Inventor interweaves Muybridge's quest to unlock the secrets of motion through photography, an obsessive murder plot, and the peculiar partnership of an eccentric inventor and a driven entrepreneur. A tale from the great American West, this popular history unspools a story of passion, wealth, and sinister ingenuity.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The obliteration of time and space has been a singular achievement accomplished by a host of inventors, businesspeople, and engineers since the Industrial Revolution. Yet, in the case of Gilded Age railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and inventor-cum-murderer Eadweard Muybridge, it’s not so much a matter of destroying distances as creating ways to commodify them. In Ball’s incisive new book, both men seek their fortunes in post–gold rush California. While Stanford is instrumental in linking east to west via his Central Pacific Railroad, reaping millions and national attention, photographer Muybridge goes a step further and tries to bottle motion by photographing the movement of a trotting horse at Stanford’s insistence. Muybridge is the father of the moving picture and a genius with a sociopathic streak that spills over into a tale of frontier scheming and greed against the canvas of a shrinking American West. Well researched and with a narrative that hopscotches through time, but never at the expense of clarity or Ball’s dry wit, the book tells a story hardly remembered yet altogether familiar. --James Orbesen


Praise for The Inventor and the Tycoon

“Engrossing…. Genius, it seems, is almost always accompanied by eccentricity, if not madness. Those rare instances of genuine brilliance that we find scattered throughout history often appear to have come at great cost to the minds that produced them. The work of Eadweard Muybridge is no exception.  While Muybridge’s photographs are widely known, his personal life has been largely neglected, which seems incredible now that, in Edward Ball’s The Inventor and the Tycoon , we have the whole fascinating story, full of strange and surprising details.  Although Muybridge was a chameleon-like figure throughout his life, Ball uses exhaustive research and vivid details to pin him down so we can have a good look at him.”
—Candice Millard, New York Times Book Review

"Amusing and informative.... [The] two lead characters were clearly enough of a literary beguilement for the author to embark with enthusiasm on this project. What lifts The Inventor and the that both of the principals can lay claim to achievements of national, and one might even say global, significance.... Mr. Ball details the story of the two men's long association with sympathy and flair."
—Simon Winchester, Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating…rich in history.  For author Edward Ball, winner of the National Book Award for Slaves in the Family, Muybridge's projections were the beginnings of the media culture that holds us in thrall today.”
—Matthew Price, Newsday

“Engaging…This story has all the elements of a fascinating HBO drama — wealth, greed, sex, adultery, genius, betrayal, murder, scandal and tragedy. At the center of Edward Ball's compelling yet complicated biographical saga of two formidable men during The Gilded Age of late 19th-century California is an unlikely alliance of invention whose peculiar tale is vividly telling of the place and times."
—Don Oldenburg, USA Today

“[A] remarkable story of the alliance between the eccentric inventor of the motion picture and the mogul who built the nation’s rails. It is a story that, for all its whirling parts and divagations, tells us a great deal about the crossroads of money and art in America.  What is most interesting about this book is the making of an astonishing artist, the marvelous photographs that attest to his genius, the rousing good yarn at the nexus of industry and art.”
—Marie Arana, Washington Post

“Superb…. Ball is an expert himself in kidnapping time and bringing dead men and women back to life.  On the surface, Leland Stanford and Eadweard Muybridge were an odd couple. Set securely in the context of the culture of the Gilded Age, The Inventor and the Tycoon provides a beautifully written account of the collaboration of these two ambitious, contentious and ultimately incompatible men.”
—Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle

“In The Inventor and the Tycoon , Ball, author of the National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family, has brilliantly fused the stories of two larger-than-life figures into a single glittering object: part social-cultural history, part melodrama, part chronicle of American self-invention.  one gallops through this book with undiminished ardor [and] Ball carefully sculpts prose of bright exuberance.”
—Dan Cryer, Boston Globe

“Fascinating…Ball's The Inventor and the Tycoon [is] a beefy and rambunctious history that is both a Victorian-age saga and true crime mystery, complete with a court trial that suggests the current-day obsession with celebrities gone bad. Inventor dwell[s] in a similar sinister underbelly as Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City."
Mark Guarino, Chicago Tribune

“Sprawling and richly detailed…reads like a Hollywood-style thriller. The Inventor and the Tycoon tells the story of how wealthy mogul Leland Stanford and photographic wizard Edward Muybridge joined forces to create the moving picture, the technology that now dominates our image-flooded age.  This nonfiction book, which reads like a Hollywood-style thriller, is set mainly in the City by the Bay, with a raucous history of westward railroad expansion (with Stanford as lead) thrown in for added depth. Fans of both early photography and the history of the West will be rewarded by the story Ball weaves together.”
—Tyrone Beason, Seattle Times

“Ball tells this interesting tale of invention and mayhem in The Inventor and the Tycoon. Ball’s book pairs the stories of Muybridge, gifted photographer and one of the founders of motion pictures, and Stanford, creator of the Central Pacific Railroad and the university that still bears his name.  Detailed and thoroughly researched, The Inventor and the Tycoon is at its best describing the milieu of a frontier world where ordinary men like Leland Stanford could amass great fortunes, and where Edward Muybridge could find what genius he possessed (and evade justice in the process).”
—Tim Brady, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Inventor and the Tycoon involves capitalism, money, murder, trains, horse racing , photography and the beginning of moving pictures. Ball has infused the famous and the infamous into a story so large it might as well be fiction.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Inventor and the Tycoon  displays Ball’s particular ability to mine history and create a compelling narrative that includes larger-than-life characters and reveals something about our inheritance.”
—Adam Parker, Charleston Post & Courier

"National Book Award winner Ball (Writing/Yale Univ.; The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA, 2007, etc.) returns with a complex story about railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and the murdering man who for a time was his protégé, pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge.... A skillfully written tale of technology and wealth, celebrity and murder and the nativity of today’s dominant art and entertainment medium.”Kirkus

Product Details

  • File Size: 25875 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (January 22, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,007 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preserving (and doing) time January 22, 2013
We are entertained by an endless stream of images based on the invention of stop-motion photography. Cameras record a series of scenes - many per second - which are replayed back to us on movie screens, televisions, and computer monitors, thus preserving moments in time even long after the subjects are dead. I once read that the inventor of the motion picture camera was the famous Thomas Edison, but it turns out he appropriated the invention from another.

Edward Muggeridge was an Englishman with an artistic eye and a penchant for inventions who emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in San Francisco and becoming a landscape photographer. This was in the frontier decades of California where a person could reinvent himself, and Muggeridge went through a series of names including "Helios" before eventually calling himself Eadweard Muybridge. Along the way he made friends with the most powerful and influential people in the city and even killed a man.

Leland Stanford, one-time governor of California and wealthy railroad tycoon, was one of those friends. Stanford had an obsession with horses and the question of the day was whether or not all hooves left the ground during a gallop. With Stanford backing him financially, Muybridge invented a process to photograph a horse (and later other animals]and lots of naked people) and replay the photos to settle the question once and for all. (Stanford also provided a lawyer when Muybridge killed his wife's adulterous lover in the little Napa Valley town of Calistoga.)

Edward Ball tells the story of the two men in his book The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures, and it's a fascinating tale.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange Bedfellows January 24, 2013
This book unravels the alliance between railroad tycoon Leland Stanford and photographer/inventor Eadweard Muybridge and their shared projects which included determining if a horse's four hooves ever left the ground at the same time when in a trot and later, a full gallop. While this book answers those questions, it also provides the story of capturing motion and projecting motion as a moment captured in time. Muybridge's invention known as the Zoopraxiscope predatedthe sprocket projection system used in motion picture technology. While that might have made for an interesting story for its own value, author Edward Ball resurrects the Gilded Age, the audacious story of unimaginable wealth, and a murder that caused quite a sensation in its time.
Muybridge was in many ways the polar opposite of his patron Stanford. He was a wirey man given to strange behavior and unexplainable outbreaks, but also a genius who photographed Yosemite, created panoramic photographs, and worked in time lapse photography among his many interests. He lived in the San Francisco area but was known for taking off on lengthy excursions. Muybridge was from England but lived in the US for decades beginning in 1850. In contrast, Stanford was a crafty businessman who parlayed his railroad concerns into a huge empire. He lived lavishly, ventured into the world of politics, and wielded power and influence.
Buried within the details of Muybridge's photographic experiments and inventions is a backstory that is both curious, scandalous, and very interesting.. While journeying back to England in the 1850's on business matters, Muybridge embarked on a cross country trip to the east coast. A accident threw him out of the coach he was riding in and he suffered head trauma that altered his behavior.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read April 5, 2013
The Inven­tor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball is a non-fiction book about two pio­neers, a mur­der and motion pic­tures. The author is a National Book Award win­ner for his pre­vi­ous book Slaves in the Family.

The book is divided into three parts:
Part one goes back in tome from the 1880s to the 1860s when Stan­ford became a rich man from his hum­ble begin­nings as a shop owner. At the same time Ead­weard Muy­bridge becomes a photographer.

The sec­ond part is less orga­nized and takes place dur­ing Stanford's youth (1830s - 1870s not nec­es­sar­ily in order) and skips to Muybridge's 1876 mur­der trial.

Two years into his mar­riage, Muy­bridge dis­cov­ered that his wife Flora was cheat­ing on him with her friend Harry Larkyns. Dur­ing this time, Muy­bridge also found out that his son Flo­rado might have been fathered by his wife's lover. In Octo­ber of that year, Muy­bridge tracked down Larkyns and shot him point blank. Later that evening Larkyns died and Muy­bridge was arrested.

Dur­ing the trial the defense pleaded insan­ity even though the defen­dant fully admit­ted that his actions were delib­er­ate and planned. How­ever, the jury still found Muy­bridge not guilty on the grounds of jus­ti­fi­able homicide.

Part two then jumps back to Muybridge's youth (1830s) and ends in the 1850s and 1860s.

The third part of the book is more straight­for­ward, start­ing where part 2 ended to Muybridge's death at the begin­ning of the 20th Century.

In The Inven­tor and the Tycoon, author Edward Ball has infused the famous and the infa­mous into a story so large it might as well be fic­tion. The story involves cap­i­tal­ism, money, mur­der, trains, horse rac­ing ,pho­tog­ra­phy and the begin­ning of mov­ing pictures.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interresting book
Published 2 months ago by M. Augusta Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars The Inventor and the Tycoon
I really enjoyed the story within this book, although I took a long time to finish it - mostly because I found the author's way of storytelling a bit annoying. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kelly S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Men of Solitude, Infidelity, Murder, Creativity and Entrepreneurship,...
This is the tale of a murderer and artist and Leland Stanford by Edward Ball. As a long-time Edward Ball fan since his appearance on Oprah many years ago prior to the publication... Read more
Published 3 months ago by amazon addict
4.0 out of 5 stars Many stories in one
Read this book if you are interested in the confluence of art and science; in the history of the American railroads; in motion picture history, or in the guilder age. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Roy J. Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written book...
Nice book. Concise and well written from the beginning. The writing is well done and gets into great detail but isn't over bearing with the information to the point where you want... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Francois Elmaleh
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful history
A book that fascinates the mind with the personalities of those who are the main characters and shows the strange but true nature in the evolution of science and the arts. Read more
Published 6 months ago by J. Mike Minnix
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very well documented book. I appreciated all the pictures also.
Published 6 months ago by Barbara J. Van Fleet
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 months ago by Trixie
2.0 out of 5 stars ... bit more compelling if the actual writing was any good. Ugh
The story may have been a bit more compelling if the actual writing was any good. Ugh.
Published 6 months ago by K L Steinbring
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
not read yet
Published 7 months ago by jmg
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