A mutoscope is an early motion picture, coin-operated device. It does not project on a screen, but provides viewing to only one person at a time. Circa 1900, the mutoscope dominated the coin-in-the-slot “peep-show” business. A mutoscope works on the same principle as the “flip book.” Individual image frames are conventional black-and-white, silver-based photographic prints on tough, flexible opaque cards. Rather than being bound into a booklet, the cards are attached to a circular core, like a huge Rolodex. A reel typically holds about 850 cards, giving a viewing time of about a minute. A patron views the cards through a single lens enclosed by a hood. The cards might be lit electrically, but the reel is driven by means of a geared-down hand crank. Each machine holds a single reel and is dedicated to a short show, described by a poster affixed to the machine.

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