WNP455 – Eadweard Muybridge Part 1
Nicole: [00:00:00] It’s Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl.
Arnold: And I'm Arnold Woods.
Nicole: Hey Arnold.
Arnold: Hello Nicole.
Nicole: Welcome back. It's good to have you.
Arnold: Good to be with you, and I hope you had a good time with that last podcast.
Nicole: Oh, Adrianne was amazing. We've already been, you know, getting feedback from folks who loved her. And, it's true, I hope you did, podcast listeners, enjoy the inimitable Adrianne Vincent. Our apologies that the episode was unexpectedly delayed an extra week, and I think if I'm correct in remembering this properly, we probably had some very incorrect event listings. But never mind. Arnold's back with us and boy oh boy, do we have [00:01:00] a doozy of a podcast for you.
Arnold: That's right Nicole, because this week, we are going way, way back to the early days of San Francisco and the early days of photography. So, let us introduce to you a pioneer in photography who made a name for himself in San Francisco, and that would be, Eadweard Muybridge. However, his first name Eadweard is actually spelled E-A-D-W-E-A-R-D. So, if you look at it, you think “Eed-weird.” But it's actually pronounced Edward as we understand it. The last name is spelled M-U-Y and then BRIDGE conventionally, but is apparently pronounced Marbridge, although you might think Muybridge. But this is all according to the pronunciation guides and we're gonna try to keep it to Edward Marbridge throughout this. But forgive us if we have conflicting pronunciations of his name. [00:02:00]
Nicole: Good lord, this is not a strong suit, and it's like he's trying to trip us up. So, the name thing gets even more weird, because his actual name at birth was Edward Muggeridge, with Edward spelling it kind of the conventional way of how it sounds. And he would change the name later in life to what we know as, it as now. But we'll get to that part of the story a little bit later. Now, admittedly, there's not a great deal of Muybridge story that takes place in the actual Outside Lands, but he was responsible for some of the earliest images of the Cliff House. And you know, we're all about the Cliff House these days. And we also do manage the OpenSFHistory archives. So, photography and photographers are totally within our wheelhouse. But mostly his life story was just so dramatic, that we couldn't pass it up. And we do our best to like pull it into the west side here and there. This story was even turned into a movie. So, let's get weird as we [00:03:00] try to do this story justice with a podcast treatment.
Arnold: And let us start at the very beginning. Muybridge was born on April 9th, 1830 in Kingston-Upon-Thames in England. And, as with many young men at the time, Muybridge came to America in 1850 to find his fortune. Initially settled in New York and began importing books from England to sell. And it was here that he met Silas T. Selleck, who made daguerreotypes, an early photo, photographic process, and that was also likely where Muybridge's initial interest in photography was sparked.
Nicole: And, after a brief stop in New Orleans, where he was also registered as a book agent, Muybridge likely arrived in California by the fall of 1855. He next briefly sold illustrated Shakespeare books in Sacramento, like we all do. Before finally coming to San Francisco by April 1856. So, [00:04:00] he opened a shop at 113, or I'm sorry, I can't read numbers. Historians and math and numbers, you guys, that's not great. He opened a shop at 113 Montgomery Street, where he sold books and prints and he shared the space with a photo gallery. So, Montgomery Street was actually home to many like art galleries at the time. And he soon began a partnership with a lithograph publisher, an engraver named W.H. Oakes. Now, when Muybridge's old friend, Silas Selleck, came to San Francisco and opened a photo gallery at 163 Clay Street in April 1858, Muybridge moved over there to join him.
Arnold: That was also the year that Eadweard's brother George came to San Francisco and joined the business. But sadly and tragically, George developed tuberculosis and died not long after he arrived. Then his, the youngest brother in the Muybridge family, Thomas, then he came to town in 1859. And although it's [00:05:00] unclear if his arrival was already planned, or if he came to take George's place in the family business, he did come and join George, or not, sorry, not George, but Eadweard in the, now the family business.
Nicole: RIP George. And you know, business is going pretty well. So, among other items, Muybridge sold prints of landscape photos taken by the inimitable Carleton Watkins, who we talked about last year in our podcast on Watkins and Tabor, episode number 434. He also sold photographic copies of paintings. And although Muybridge would later claim in an Examiner article that he had been diligently and studiously working at photography beginning in like 1860, there is no indication that he was selling any prints that he made himself. And, given later statements, Muybridge was probably not making his own prints yet. There's a lot about the rest of this podcast and a lot of his life story and [00:06:00] the life stories of many people you'll be introduced to today that are hard to pinpoint, because sometimes they get very colorful. Just putting that out as a PSA.
Arnold: But what we do know is that in 1860, Eadweard sold his business to his brother Thomas. In fact, he published an announcement to that effect in the May 15th, 1860 edition of the Bulletin, where he also declared his intention to leave on a world trip to New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Vienna, et cetera. Imagine taking out a newspaper announcement about your vacation plans. Apparently, that was a thing back in the day.
Nicole: You know what? I hope I reach this level someday.
Arnold: Yeah. He did begin that trip. But, you know, this was the days before airplanes and he didn't want to take the boat around South America. So, he was taking a stage coach ride to New York that [00:07:00] began on July 2nd, 1860.
Nicole: Not a great way to travel long distances. It's a very bumpy ride. And this one definitely did not go as planned. The stage coach actually crashed near the Texas-Arkansas border, killing the driver and a passenger, and injuring all others on board. Now, Muybridge was thrown from the stagecoach and he hit his head on a rock. He woke up after nine days in an Arkansas hospital, which sounds like your worst nightmare. And he suffered from headaches, deafness, double vision, loss of taste and smell and confusion for three months after the accident, with some symptoms lasting for like an entire year. Also, this is bonkers, his hair went totally gray by some reports in just three days after the accident. Muybridge continued with treatment in Arkansas for like three weeks before continuing on to New York, where he also got [00:08:00] treatment there. And yes, in case you're wondering, he did sue the stagecoach company and he received what feels like the too little amount of $2,500 in damages. Although this was a long time ago, so I guess maybe it was pretty large for then.
Arnold: A different world then.
Arnold: And eventually Marbridge felt well enough to finally travel to England, where he stayed first with his mother and then his aunt. And while there, he got really good treatment because he received doctoring from Sir William Gull, who was one of Queen Victoria's personal doctors.
Arnold: Besides prescribing a meat-less, alcohol-less, and coffee-less diet…
Nicole: Kill me.
Arnold: Gull suggested that Muybridge take up more outdoor activities and maybe a change in profession. We're thinking these two are related because selling books and prints in a shop probably didn't leave Muybridge much time to be outdoors. Muybridge would also later state that it was Dr. Gull who [00:09:00] suggested that he take up photography, which he immediately did.
Nicole: So, apparently Muybridge was a fast study and he quickly figured out ways to improve the photographic process. On September 28th, 1860, he applied for a British patent for an improved method and apparatus for plate printing, receiving the patent on August 1st, the next year. And he was also awarded a French patent and exhibited his plate printing hardware at the 1862 London's World Fair. Now we're in like peak Victorian era. This was the, this was a really big deal.
Arnold: Even though it was a big deal, we actually don't know a whole lot about Muybridge's life over the next five years. But you do have some involvement or ownership in a silver mining company and a Turkish bank, who both ended prematurely because of the worldwide economic depression in 1866. Seems like this is a period where he's trying out a [00:10:00] lot of things anyway, so why not change your name too?
Arnold: I told you we'd get to this. It's around this time where he ditched the Muggeridge name and returned to San Francisco using the last name of Muybridge, spelled as we noted up top. M-U-Y-Bridge.
Nicole: This, these all sound like Harry Potter names. Like a lot of names you're gonna hear today feel like they're made up. And you know what? They are or maybe they aren't. Who knows? Okay, so when he again set foot on San Francisco soil on February 13th, 1867, old friends were a little shocked by the man that returned, and not just because of his totally gray hair now. He was once a careful smart and a nice businessman. But the new Muybridge was eccentric, forgetful, he like easily flew into a rage. He was careless about he looked, how he looked, and he was seemingly unconcerned about money and really bad at managing it. His friend Selleck [00:11:00] said he hardly recognized Muybridge. But that sounds kind of just like your classic artist stereotype to me personally.
Arnold: Could be. And this is also when he became an artist. Or really got into it. He opened his photography business and converted a horse carriage into a portable dark room. He called it Helios’ Flying Studio. Helios would be his photographic pseudonym for years. And among the first things that Muybridge did with his mobile studio was take a months-long trip to Yosemite in the summer and early fall of 1867. To get the perfect shot, Muybridge took huge safety risks, but came back with numerous artistic glass plate negatives. He picked out 20 that he retouched and sold his stereoscopic views to a subscription service launched in February 1868. Sounds very 2022 actually. And then, you know, I'm thinking this is right before Yosemite got [00:12:00] declared a National Park, so he may have Influenced that with these pictures.
Nicole: Are we framing this whole podcast as Muybridge as the original influencer?
Arnold: I think so.
Nicole: Take that Instagram. So, in case you don't know what stereoscopic views are, they're like, side by side images taken simultaneously with a double lens camera. And when you view them through a stereoscope, the pictures merge to form a three-dimensional image. And they're super cool. These are one of my favorite like historic photographic formats. His photos were used to illustrate a book about Yosemite, written by John S. Hittell and the San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed that these views, and I quote, “are quite superior to all others of Yosemite with which the public is already acquainted.” That's high praise.
Arnold: And we will get to more high praise [00:13:00] from the Chronicle as we go on.
Arnold: After he returned from Yosemite, Muybridge took out an ad in 1868 for the business that stated in part, quote, “Helios is prepared to accept commissions to photograph private residences, ranches, mills, views, animals, ships, etc., anywhere in the city or any portion of the Pacific Coast.” End quote.
Nicole: I love this so much. He's like, I'm Muybridge. I'll photograph anything.
Arnold: And come hire me. And, it happened. Among his earliest commissions was one from the U.S. government in July 1868, where he accompanied General Henry Halleck of Civil War fame to the newly acquired Alaska on a PR mission, photographing the Tlingit people, Russian settlers, and landscapes, while honing his skills as a photographer. And I'm sure I pronounced that tribe's name wrong.
Nicole: I think you did pretty good, but then I'm [00:14:00] terrible at this too. Also, he sends an ad and is like, I will photograph anything, come at me. And the U.S. government was like, okay. This is already a wild story. It's only gonna get more wild. Not long after his return from Alaska, San Francisco was actually rocked by a powerful earthquake and no, not THE earthquake you're thinking about. This one was on the Hayward Fault on October 21st, 1868. In the quake’s aftermath, Muybridge took photographs of the devastation, like so many photographers who would follow him would also do. With his highly developed technical skills, he soon became very successful. Muybridge was able to modify photos, which we might call today like photoshopping, by adding details like clouds or the moon, or, you know, volcanoes. He was continually tinkering with his cameras and his developing process to improve his photos. And, [00:15:00] in 1869, he patented a sky shade process to reduce how much blue skies would like bleach out the blue sensitive emulsion processes of that time period. Really revolutionary stuff.
Arnold: And we should point out that we did a podcast on the 1868 Earthquake a long time ago. And I don't remember the episode number, but go to the podcast page and you'll find it.
Nicole: It's from 2018, cause it was a big anniversary I think.
Arnold: Anyways, Muybridge outgrew the gallery of Silas Selleck and moved in with the eccentric art retailers, Charles and Arthur Nahl, spelled N-A-H-L, at 121 Montgomery Street. This put him in the big leagues of the art and photography scene, and it's also where he met a woman half his age named Flora Downs, who worked for the Nahls as a photo retoucher in 1869.
Nicole: Oh yeah, here we go. It's gonna start getting good. So, Flora was [00:16:00] originally from Ohio. Or maybe Alabama. Or perhaps Kentucky. A lot of reports conflict. But she did not have a happy childhood. That is consistent through all the stories. And she eventually came to California with her aunt's family in 1863. They eventually abandoned her, sort of foisting her off on a boarding school called Mills Seminary in Oakland at the time. And it was during this time that she met and married a man named Lucius Stone. Also a Harry Potter name it feels like. And the son of very wealthy saddle makers in San Francisco. It wasn't a good marriage, and when she met Muybridge, she was already separated from Lucius and living in a boarding house on Montgomery Street.
Arnold: What a time to meet a complicated woman. Muybridge was doing great then. He was traveling around San Francisco taking pictures that he turned into over 400 stereographs, which were sold through Silas Selleck’s shop and some other [00:17:00] distributors. Thanks to him, we have some of the earliest photos of the Cliff House from 1869. And he also documented construction of the old U.S. Mint at 5th and Mission that began in 1870. What he did there is he took the same picture at different times during the construction process, so that these images are similar to time lapse photography.
Nicole: Yeah, commissions are just like rolling in. You know, he extensively documented Woodward Gardens, which was a Mission District amusement area, by commission from its owner, Robert B. Woodward in 1870. And you can see many of these photos on OpenSFHistory. I think it's just over 170, although maybe there's duplicates in there. Woodward's Gardens, some of the other things he was commissioned to do. Through the Nahls, he gets connected with other wealthy men, this time railroad tycoons like Crocker and Stanford, and starts photographing their homes on Nob Hill [00:18:00] and in the countryside. Muybridge also received another government commission to photograph Pacific Coast lighthouses. And between March and July of 1871, he actually traveled aboard the very first lighthouse tender ship called the Shubrick, visiting lighthouses up and down the coast.
Arnold: Now, we didn't forget about Flora here. In this time, Muybridge and Flora began courting, maybe even getting a little sexy before they should have, according to the custom of the day. After all, he was 41. She was 21 and technically still married, although separated. From the start, they seemed like a strange match. She was described as voluptuous with a sweet face, and large lustrous eyes. Flora is outgoing, interested in society gatherings and the theater and liked to go out and about on the town. Eadweard kept more to himself, liked to read, frequently left town for days, weeks, [00:19:00] or even months at a time.
Nicole: You know, opposites attract. Maybe it's gonna work out. You know, they start taking trips together and she starts popping up in a lot of his photographs, like at Woodward Gardens. She eventually divorces her husband on the grounds that she was abused, with Muybridge's help. Cause it sounds like he likely found her the lawyer that got her the divorce. And five months later, they were married on May 20th, 1871 and they lived in a really ritzy neighborhood in San Francisco called South Park.
Arnold: Now, Muybridge was on the fast track with his career by this point, but it wasn't without some problems. As soon as he and Flora got married, Muybridge began traveling extensively. Not a great way to start doing, you know, immediately after you have married a voluptuous younger woman who has a troubled past. And we mentioned his, you know, maybe lack of concern about money [00:20:00] earlier. And he gets sued at this point by Wilson, Hood & Company for $762, big time back then. This happens in June 1872 because he apparently did not pay them for goods he bought from them. Well, in July 1873, even he had to concede that, so he consented to a judgment in favor of the company.
Nicole: Oh boy. So, but he is, he's continually working, right? So, before heading to Northern California for an Army Commission, Muybridge had been retained by the man who would become a huge benefactor for him. In 1872, former California Governor and railroad baron Leland Stanford, which might be a name that sounds familiar to you, he hired Muybridge to take photos of his mansion and other possessions after meeting him through another client, his good old buddy, Charles Crocker. So, one of the things Stanford was most interested in was getting photos of his racehorse named [00:21:00] Occidental. And what Stanford wanted was not just a simple portrait of Occidental, but a picture of him going absolutely full speed at a, at a gallop.
Arnold: And this was hard at that time because at a full gallop, horses moved pretty much too fast for the human eye to fully understand how they moved. So, painted portraits typically had all legs on the ground, typically one leg on the ground for paintings of horses who were trotting. And the rumor was that Stanford had made a $25,000 bet on how a horse galloped and wanted photographic evidence to resolve the bet. Now, like we said, just a rumor, we doubt that this is true.
Arnold: Stanford, in fact, hated gambling. He liked when his horses won, but he never placed bets on either his own or any other horse.
Nicole: Exactly. So, Muybridge used a stereo camera with two lenses and a handmade shutter to capture the horse in motion. The first attempt at a photo of Occidental was in 1872 at the Union Park Racetrack in [00:22:00] Sacramento. Given the speed of the horse and the length of time needed for the exposure, the picture did turn out fuzzy, so they gave it another shot. He moved the experiment to the Bay District Racetrack in the Richmond District, which was near the Presidio, in the spring of 1873.
Arnold: This is where he devises a trigger that's stretched across the track, which the horses could trip themselves. He even built a temporary dark room at the track and were able to create a clearer photograph with the help of an assistant. Although neither of the photos survived, famed printers, Courier & Ives, memorialized the accomplishment in a print that went in on sale in 1873.
Nicole: Yeah, I know the photos weren’t totally clear, but they were a big achievement, so that print sold really well. Now Muybridge seems like he's doing great, but soon enough his personal life is going to, shall we [00:23:00] say, get a little weird, Arnold.
Arnold: You could say that. And remember, you know he's gotten married, he's doing all this photography, so he is kind of leaving Flora to her own devices. And the Nahls, where she worked, decided to close their gallery in 1872. So, Muybridge transfers to an even bigger art gallery run by Henry Bradley and William Rolufson. And as part of the arrangements, they had to hire his wife part-time as a retoucher. And, unfortunately for Muybridge, this is where Flora met a handsome and charming young man named Major Harry Larkyns.
Nicole: Ooh. I have like some, you know, some Jane Austen, like visions happening in my head about Major Larkyns. Let's give some background on him. Although no photos of Larkyns survive, he's described in all these accounts as being athletic, with sandy colored hair, and he like spoke a bunch of different languages. He was supposed to be very suave and [00:24:00] like dressed super well. It's highly likely that his biography is partially fiction at the best. But as the story goes, he was rumored to have come from a rich family in Europe and served in the Franco-Prussian War, where he commanded a company of sharp shooters. In fact, the full title he used was Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and late Major of Headquarters’ Staff 24th Corps of the French Army. The Chevalier of the Legion of Honor is a medal for braverly, bravery. So, before that he had a commission with the English army and served in India. So, you know, a very exotic background
Arnold: And whether or not any of that is true or partially true, what we do know is that Larkyns came to San Francisco with an Englishman named Arthur Neil in the fall of 1872 and proceeded to rack up all kinds of debts by living lavishly, buying the best clothes, indulging in champagne dinners with illicit women, that kind of thing. This caught [00:25:00] up with him in 1873, and he was jailed for, quote, “obtaining money under false pretenses.” When he was released however, he found employment as a dramatic critic for the Daily Evening Post. First this was part-time, and then later more of a full-time gig. He also wrote plays, one of which had been produced in San Francisco.
Nicole: I love this so much. He comes here as like a complete con artist. Leads a, what sounds like a pretty fun life actually. And then is in jail. And then, as soon as he is released, local newspapers is like, oh yeah, come here and write for us. We love what you do. I love this peak San Francisco story, where you can be anyone you wanna be. So, in later interviews, Eadweard remembers meeting Larkyns when he came to Bradley and Rulofson's gallery to purchase photographs and Flora introduced the two men. He, so Larkyns would frequently come by the gallery [00:26:00] to pick up cabinet cards of actors and actresses for work apparently. Eadweard wasn't particularly fond of social butterflies like Larkyns, which I think is a polite way to describe him, but he frequently invited Eadweard and Flora to the theater and eventually Eadweard accepted. Remember now, Flora loves going out, right? She loves going to these things. So, I get the feeling that Eadweard was like, fine, let's go to the theater with this weird fancy man. Like, we'll do it. So, after their excursion to the California Theater, they went out for drinks. Again, this feels like a very modern story. And a few days later, Larkyns stopped by their South Park home and like that was it for Muybridge. We don't have more details about it, but after he met him again, he was like, nope, I don't need to be friends with this guy. We don't need to talk to each other. I'm done.
Arnold: Flora's a different story though.
Arnold: She likes Harry and they start hanging out. They go to see Romeo and Juliet together. [00:27:00]
Arnold: Nice romantic evening. And Flora came home from the theater late much to Eadweard’s chagrin. The pair, Harry and Flora, become lovers and he called her Flo. They met at his place on Montgomery and also at the Cliff House, which still had locked private rooms and settees. Remember, this is before Adolph Sutro buys the place and cleans it up because of its bad reputation.
Nicole: Please know that when we found this in our research, we were like, oh, here it is. Here's the Holy Grail. This is the moment we were looking for, for so many reasons. So meanwhile, the U.S. Army had hired Muybridge to document its Indian Wars campaign against the Modoc tribe in northern California and southern Oregon. Which again took him on the road away from his very young and promiscuous wife. So, because of the long exposures required of cameras, then most images were staged recreations where army personnel were [00:28:00] like posed in ways to best show them off. So, basically these images were, you know, classic army propaganda. And Muybridge only photographed some early campaigns in the Modoc war before returning to San Francisco. And a set of stereoscopic views from this trip were published by Bradley and Rulofson, that illustrated the Modoc war, and also included a survey of images of nearby lava beds.
Arnold: Now remember, we, Muybridge exhibited at an earlier World's Fair, and, in 1873, he exhibited some landscape photos at the Vienna World's Fair at a large photography exhibit there. He was even awarded a prize for his photos, as was another San Francisco photographer there, the aforementioned Carleton Watkins.
Arnold: As we may recall, sold prints through Muybridge's shop way back when Eadweard first came to San Francisco. In fact, Muybridge and Watkins likely influenced each other [00:29:00] and may have shared ideas.
Nicole: It's always been a small town filled with people doing cool stuff. So, Muybridge is very busy. When he had time to return home, he was surprised to hear that Flora was spending so much time with a man named Major Harry Larkyns. Eadweard wasn't a fan. He told her it wasn't proper for her to be seen with other men at night and made her promise to never do it again. And he said that Flora solemnly and faithfully promised that she wouldn't see Harry again. Muybridge also went to see Larkyns, just to make sure his message was clear, the following day. And he also freely admitted that he had been to the theater the prior night with Flora, stating, “I didn't think that there was any harm in that.” Eadweard replied again that this was not proper for any man but him to escort his wife somewhere at night. Now remember this dear listeners, because the rights of a man in his marriage [00:30:00] on what his wife can do is going to be very important later. So, then Eadweard commanded Larkyns to stay away from Flora and told him that there would be consequences if he didn't follow his orders. Larkyns said that he understood and that he would not take her out anymore. But it seems to us that he may have left himself a little, maybe maneuvering with that mushy response.
Arnold: Yeah. Take her out as opposed to not see her. See, we'll see where this goes from there.
Arnold: Sometime around then Flora gets pregnant. And the Muybridges hire a midwife named Susan Smith.
Nicole: Oh, Susan.
Arnold: She was gonna have a big role as we go on. She recalled Flora and Harry would write each other two to three times a day, often hiring a courier to transport them. And Harry couldn't stay away even visiting her at home once. Muybridge had his suspicions. While Flora [00:31:00] was pregnant, she had Smith take a letter to Larkyns at his work at the Evening Post. And, while she was there, Muybridge walked by and apparently saw Smith and Larkyns there together.
Nicole: Uh-oh. Is anyone else picturing Harry Larkyns, like Harry Styles? Is that just me? Cause that's who I keep imagining in my head and it's making this a very fun story. Okay, so again, really small town. You gotta be careful who you're hanging around with. So, after seeing Smith and Larkyns at the Post office, that night Eadweard came into Flora's room, where she was chatting with Susan Smith, and he asked the midwife if she had seen Larkyns that day. And Smith was about to say yes, when she looks over, sees Floras's face, which was what she described as, and I quote, “white as death,” and so she's like, uh-oh. Flora silently like shakes her finger at her. So, Smith, who would later say that Flora’s love affairs, you know, like, she's like, this is none of my business, but now I'm up in the [00:32:00] middle of it. So, she told Eadweard that, oh yeah, like I had gone to the Evening Post about an advertisement and, oh geez, I think maybe I saw Larkyns there. But he then tossed an unsigned letter at Flora and asked if Larkyns had written it, and Flora denied it. And Muybridge explained that he hoped to God that this was true.
Arnold: Now we've talked about Muybridge's trips before and, in April 1874, he again goes out of town.
Nicole: Oh, Marbridge.
Arnold: And this is kind of late in Flora’s pregnancy. And she was on her way home from the Cliff House in the middle of the night in a carriage, when she went into labor and the carriage driver took them to Smith's house on Powell Street. Guess who was in that carriage with her?
Arnold: Smith gets dressed and gets in the carriage accompanying Flora and Harry Styles, now you got me saying Styles, Harry Larkyns, back to the Muybridge house, with Major Larkyns holding, kissing, and caressing [00:33:00] Flora the whole way there.
Nicole: Yes. You're on board now too.
Nicole: So, after they arrived at the Muybridge house and got Flora inside, Larkyns actually goes and secures the doctor, like brings him back. And at 4:00 AM, she gives birth to a boy with sandy colored hair. Flora told Susan she was gonna leave Muybridge and travel to England with Harry and the baby. And so, Susan's like, oh, good lord, I think Susan's the one I feel for the most in this, to be honest. Susan's like, oh lord, she telegraphs Muybridge. She's like, get back here, your wife just had a baby. Stuff's happening. He returns the following day, but he wasn't gonna be in San Francisco long. He stayed around long enough to see the boy named. They named him Florado Helios Muybridge. So, a play on his mom's name, Helios, which was his father's photographic pseudonym, and then Muybridge. But Eadweard [00:34:00] would only really be here for like a week or 10 days before leaving again.
Arnold: And by leaving again, he leaves the door open. So, after the birth, Major Larkyns calls on Flora many times. Every time he came over to the Muybridge house to see Flora, the midwife Smith was always sent out of the room where they met or Smith was asked to bring the baby in for Larkyns to see. On one occasion, Larkyns told Smith that he held her responsible for taking good care of the baby. And on another occasion, Smith heard Flora say, Harry, we will always remember the 13th of July. We will have something to show for it.
Nicole: And Harry Styles was like, yes indeed. So, Muybridge returns home when Florado was about four weeks old and almost immediately, he's like making plans on, for his next big trip, cause he's got another gig in the works in like Central America. But, at this point, he sure as hell not [00:35:00] gonna leave Flora here on her own, cause he's up, he's like wise to something going on. So, in June of 1874, he tells Flora that she could either come with him to Central America, which honestly sounds like a nightmare with a small child and how hard it was to travel at that time, or she could go stay with family in Portland, Oregon. And that's the, that's what she chose. She chose to go to Oregon.
Arnold: Meanwhile, our raconteur, Harry Larkyns, his life, it took a turn.
Arnold: He was fired from the paper after hiring another man to ghostwrite articles for him that were submitted under Harry's name. And then, he would get half the proceeds and the ghostwriter would get half the proceeds. However, who knows, the ghostwriter subsequently ratted him out, probably wanting to get the whole amounts.
Arnold: Assuming he would get hired by the Evening Post. In any event, Larkyns next finds work as an agent for a circus. He seems to have spent his free time growing mad with jealousy that [00:36:00] Flora was cheating on him. Ironic, given that he was the other man.
Nicole: People in glass houses, right? We're kind of skipping over a lot of stuff here. But anyways, he quit the job at the circus and picked up some odd work between San Francisco and Calistoga, where he starts to spend a lot more of his time. And all the while, Flora and Harry continued to communicate by writing letters to Susan, who would then make copies and send them out to the other one. So, they would be like, dear Susan, all this weird stuff I'm writing about like Harry or Flora and she would be like, ah-huh. And she would like copy them out. And anyways, so Smith later told the Chronicle the contents of some of the letters that she kept because this woman I think understood that she was getting put into some weird positions and she was like, I'm gonna pocket this stuff for later. In July 1874, Larkyns wrote that he could, and I quote, “neither, eat, sleep, nor work till I [00:37:00] know something more about the poor girl.” Flora had written that she, and I quote, “never loved anyone but Larkyns and was not ashamed of it.”
Arnold: Now, poor old Susan here, started to feel abused by all of his trouble, particularly as Muybridge had stopped paying her. Eadweard actually claimed that he had given the money to Flora to pay her, but Smith never got it.
Arnold: Smith asked Larkyns for help writing up the paperwork to file a lawsuit for back pay, which he would file and win.
Nicole: And so, on October fir, this is when it really starts to heat up, you guys, like buckle up, because it's a bound to get crazy. So, on October 14th, 1874, Eadweard goes to Smith's home to ask for some additional time to pay her what she was owed. And he asked to see a letter from Flora that was presented at trial in which she acknowledged the debt that he owed. And [00:38:00] he was dismayed to see that Larkyns’ name was mentioned repeatedly in this letter that was just about her debts. So, he's like, what's going on here? And Smith like immediately spills the beans. And he's like, okay, I'm gonna need you to bring all the letters that you have that were written between Flora and Harry to the office of my lawyer. And only when I get these letters will you get any of your money. And so, Flora’s like, or Smith is like, okay. So she gets, she gets these letters, she brings them down to the office the next day and hands them over. And when Smith leaves, she reported hearing Muybridge hit the floor. Apparently, he had like read these letters between the two lovers and had immediately fainted upon reading the contents.
Arnold: And Smith is about to see a lot of Marbridge at this point.
Nicole: Oh yeah.
Nicole: Hours later, Muybridge turns up at Smith's apartment on Powell to question her further. He was basically incoherent and then [00:39:00] left. Sometime later, he's back again looking terrible, and while there, he saw a Bradley and Rulofson portrait of Florado on the table. He picked it up, turned it over, and he saw that Flora had written on the back, “little Harry.”
Nicole: Oh boy. Oh boy.
Arnold: He flows, flies into a rage and Susan thought he would actually kill her. She's spilled the rest of the beans about the night Florado was born. All of it.
Nicole: Oh, Susan. Ah, Susan. I don't, I don’t begrudge her for being like, okay, crazy man, here's all the information. Please leave me alone. But man, oh man, that's not good. So, when Muybridge hears this, he says, and I quote, “this is more than I can bear.” He walks out of Smith’s room saying, “Flora, Flora, my heart is broken. I would've given my heart's best blood for you.” He immediately goes home, grabs his Smith & Weston six-shooter, and [00:40:00] goes over to the Bradley and Rulofson Gallery where Muybridge told William Rulofson everything that had happened, like the a, the whole story. He handed his wife's adulterous letters to Rulofson, telling him to burn them if he doesn't come back alive. And then, he leaves catching the ferry to Vallejo and then onto to Calistoga. And the whole time, there's so much more we could say here, but the whole time Rulofson is like, oh boy, this is bad. This, he is, he's in like a crazy mood. He's like trying to like stall him, cause he is like, oh, the last ferry to Vallejo leaves at whatever hour. If I can just hold him here until then. But, you know, Muybridge could not be dissuaded.
Arnold: And at this point, sources conflict about exactly what happened when Muybridge left. Now, he took the ferry. He had to hire a carriage to get to Calistoga. To Calistoga. He has to ask around to find out where Major Larkyns is. And eventually is told [00:41:00] Larkyns is at the Yellow Jacket mine in a house that they have there in Calistoga. So, he goes there. And, here's another bit, he had to convince the carriage driver to take him there at a late hour, because the road was bad and they, you know, they didn't wanna do it. But I'm sure Muybridge was offering up money to get them out there. Finally, they convince a driver to take him out to Calistoga on this bad road. And he gets there around 11:00 PM on October 17th, 1874, to confront Harry.
Nicole: Oh boy.
Arnold: Now Larkyns, this will not surprise you given his reputation, was there playing cards with a group of gentlemen and ladies.
Arnold: And the door opens and Muybridge comes in and he declares, “my name is Muybridge,” and then, [00:42:00] he either says, “I've received a message about my wife,” or “I have a message to you from my wife.”
Nicole: If you wanna know what happens next, you're gonna have to tune into next week's podcast for Act Two of this tragic play. Spoiler alert, I think we just started, did our preview for the next podcast.
Arnold: Say what now?
Nicole: Oh. Yeah. Well, on that cliffhanger, we're gonna give you a fun fact, that didn't make any sense to put up in the upper areas. But the Nahl brothers, you know, the, they had the art gallery where Flora got that retouching job, they were not only painters and art dealers, they were gymnasts. And their home at 611 Clay Street was a hangout for San Francisco's athletes. They also wrote “Instructions in Gymnastics” and founded the Olympic Club.
Arnold: So, we have the Olympic Club getting created in all this too?
Nicole: Yeah. [00:43:00] Busy time in San Francisco.
Arnold: This story has everything.
Nicole: Well, it sure does, but mostly, it especially has Harry Styles.
Arnold: And Harry, please don't sue us for using your name.
Nicole: Harry, please contact us and listen to this. We need to create an opera about this, and you need to play the Harry Larkyns role.
Arnold: Spoiler alert for something, for something next week. There may be an opera.
Nicole: Ooh. Don't worry, we won't be singing. Arnold. Arnold. Arnold.
Nicole: We're having too much fun. I have to know, is there any listener mail?
Arnold: Well, first of all, Nicole, the perfect way to get in touch with us, for anything you hear in a podcast is to simply send an email to [00:44:00] email@example.com. There are other ways you can do it too, but you can figure those out.
Arnold: We've got a really cool one this week.
Nicole: We did. Like you can message us on Twitter, like the Gleason Digital Library at UCSF did. They said, “Hey, outsidelandz with a Z,“ cause we're so cool like that. “Any chance you're thinking about hosting a transcribe-athlon with the newly released 1950s census data. It might be cool to get some local history fans together, maybe virtually, to look at census pages related to San Francisco's Outside Lands and improve the name transcription for some of our local neighborhoods. Anyways, just a suggestion.” They also end by saying, “I'm a big fan of your local history work. The podcast about Ephraim Merida was really interesting.” So, woo-hoo!
Arnold: And if there's any listeners out there who are interested in that kind of thing, you know…
Arnold: Get in touch.
Nicole: We might be, maybe WNP’s [00:45:00] future is transcribe-athons. I don't know. We'll see where this crazy road takes us, y'all.
Arnold: But in order for us to get there…
Arnold: We need your help, because there are many benefits for membership, right Nicole?
Nicole: Oh my gosh, yes. If you clickety, clickety, clack the big orange button at the top of any page on outsidelands.org or OpenSFHistory.org and donate to become a member, you can get the quarterly membership magazine, which sometimes gets sent out in a timely manner. You also get discounts on events and other exclusive perks. But, you know, regardless of what you get in return, your membership is supporting all of the really good work that we're doing. It's supporting this absolutely free podcast that you enjoy. It's supporting OpenSFHistory, which is a treasure trove of thousands of historical images available for your perusal from the comfort of your own home. There's also the Cliff House collection and so [00:46:00] much more. We're really busy at Western Neighborhoods Project, and every dollar you give us goes to support that work.
Arnold: And now, it’s time for announcements.
Arnold: So Nicole, what is the big thing coming up?
Nicole: Yeah, so our event listings are pretty light these days, because we are laser focused on Ga-la, or Gal-la, or however you would like to pronounce it. I hope you have penciled into your calendar a save the date for May 15th, because we're gonna be at the Presidio Golf Club, throwing our biggest party of the year. It has a Playland at the Beach theme. And I'm, I've been working so hard on the program for this, y'all. We have a special guest co-host for the program, which I'll be announcing later. We also have performances by the Golden Gate Park Band. Ben Wood will be there with a Playland theme mashup of his incredible [00:47:00] projection art, using the Prelinger archive footage that you've been so excited about at the Cliff House. We'll also be giving out awards to our dear founder Woody LaBounty and our friends at the Chinese Historical Society of America, Palma Yu and Steve Haines. This is gonna be so much fun and there's good food and free wine. So, for the low, low price of $225, you can be sure to get a seat at the table and tickets are selling out. We only have a couple tables left the last time I looked. So, you will want to get your tickets. ASAP. Go to outsidelands.org-slash-gala to get them today.
Arnold: We should also announce that The Museum at The Cliff is closed for a while. Closed on April 10th. But we are gonna have a big reopening for this summer because not only will we be in the gift shop, we are expanding into the Cliff House restaurant space itself. And we're gonna have lots of neat things that we're gonna add [00:48:00] in there with the help of John Lindsey of the Great Highway Gallery. And we will be in touch with you. So, stay tuned in terms of when that reopening actually happens.
Nicole: Yeah. That's the other reason why you don't see any events. But I did hear, I have been contacted by Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle, our dear friend. He did ask me to get involved in, in a, some sort of Emperor Norton thing on April 28th. Unclear if we'll be involved, but if I am, or even if I'm not, you should all go to that as well. Okay, so Arnold preview for next week is?
Arnold: Well, we kind of already let this cat out of the bag, but come back next week for part two of our Muybridge podcast for even more shocking revelations.
Nicole: Find out what happens to Harry Larkyns. I mean, Harry Styles. I mean, Harry Larkyns.
Arnold: See you then.
Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.
Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org. You can also find us on social media. Book, which is outside Lands with an S at Twitter, which is outside lands with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outside lands, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images firstname.lastname@example.org. G.
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