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Posts Tagged ‘penny movie’

Step right up and see “Double Trouble,” an early 20th century peep show reel. Yes, it’s SFW though dancers wearing short skirts were considered risque when this moving picture machine was new. Invented in 1894 and marketed by the American Mutoscope Company, the coin-op machines contained flip book movies with a viewing time of about a minute.

These classic reels were made from 1897 to 1907, when the company turned completely to projection, and were created and almost totally produced in New York City. Although the 4,000-plus titles included a variety of subjects, it was the girly movies with suggestive titles like “Artists and Models” and “Wiggling Wonders” (glimpsed in the photo below) that won notoriety.

Mutoscope machines were popular in Coney Island and the Rev. Frederick Bruce Russell of the Law and Order Society raided and closed several for the exhibition of improper pictures on July 30, 1897. “Those closed by Mr. Russell to-day were at Feltman’s Pavilion, Koster’s Concert Hall, the Sea Beach Palace and the Old Iron Pier,” said an article on the front page of the Brooklyn Eagle. “The particular pictures which fell under the reformer’s eye were entitled ‘What the Girls Did With Willie’s Hat’ and ‘Fun in a Boarding School.’”

What did the girls do with the hat that was so scandalous? They frolicked and kicked it high over their heads while wearing short skirts like the girls in “Double Trouble.” Bring back the peep show! It would be fun to have some of these old Mutoscope movie maachine as well as an arcade museum as we noted previously in “ATZ’s Big Wish List for the New Coney Island,” ATZ, October 7, 2012).

penny movies

Boys looking at penny movies at South Louisiana State Fair, 1938. Photograph by Russell Lee. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

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