Amusement arcade mutoscope, c 1910.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Mutoscopes, commonly known as 'What The Butler Saw' machines, were very popular amusements on piers in the early part of this century, and were one of the earliest ways of seeing 'motion pictures'. The Mutoscope presented the viewer with a sequence of images mounted like flip cards on a rotating drum, each image being slightly different from the preceding image. The user turned a handle and looked through an eyepiece. As the images pased before the eye in rapid succesion, the illusion of movement was achieved. At the cost of a penny the viewer could watch a short sequence unfold. Although basically innocent in content, these sequences frequently showed scantily clad women, which meant that Mutoscope operators often came into conflict with the authorities.