Eadweard Muybridge: Technology Settles a Debate

Detail: First quarter of 1943 Kentucky Derby from infield

Every year on the first Saturday in May, some of the fastest land animals on earth thunder down a racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. They cover a mile and a quarter in a race lasting only about two minutes: the Kentucky Derby. Thoroughbred horses run so fast — approaching 50 miles per hour — that their legs look like a dusty blur.

In the late 19th century — the early heyday of horse racing in the United States — many people wondered about how horses’ legs moved when they ran. The biggest question was whether a horse ever completely lost contact with the ground. One man who thought he had the answer, Leland Stanford, hired a photographer to prove he was right. Eadweard Muybridge, the photographer, devised a system with a series of cameras that recorded every step taken by a galloping horse. In other words, the multiple cameras captured what the human eye could not. Muybridge’s work showed that Stanford was correct about whether a horse’s legs ever leave the ground simultaneously. Can you tell what Stanford thought by looking at the images of racehorse “Annie G.” below?

Animal locomotion - 16 frames of racehorse "Annie G." galloping

Animal locomotion – 16 frames of racehorse “Annie G.” galloping, c. 1887; Eadweard Muybridge

Invite students to compare the series of photographs to drawings of horses from 1870, 1881 and 1884. Why did the artists depict the horses’ legs this way?

For additional Library of Congress resources and teaching ideas, visit Celebrating Edweard Muybridge: Documenting Movement and Creating Art. To learn more about the Kentucky Derby, visit The The First Derby Day. Introduce younger students to The First Kentucky Derby. 

What connections might you make between stop-motion photography, the Kentucky Derby, and your curriculum?

Inviting Students to Consider Possible Research Paths Suggested by Three Sources from the Late 19th Century

In the March/April 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article described the invention of the phonograph and how it was used by the 19th century American ethnologists, Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, to record music and interviews with Omaha Indians.

Three New Ebooks from the Library of Congress: The Industrial Revolution, Jim Crow, and Children’s Lives

Walk with civil rights activists as they march against racial segregation. Pick out the details of a nineteenth-century factory. Zoom in on the faces of children at play one hundred years ago.

As teachers begin planning for the next school year, the Library of Congress invites students everywhere to touch, draw on, and explore some of its most valuable treasures–all via its three newest free interactive ebooks for tablets.

Intern Lesson: Who Knew Analyzing Primary Sources Could Be So Exciting?

As the end of my internship draws near and I look back at all I have learned, one thing sticks out: I have been surprised by how exciting analyzing primary sources can be. I watched as teachers at our workshops sat with images in front of them, and their facial expressions went from an initial blank stare to expressions of full engagement and wonder as they looked at every detail of an image to answer questions like: What is the image trying to convey? Why? Who created it? In groups, the teachers became excited students working together to analyze an image.

Stellar Primary Sources: An Astronomy Day Blog Round-Up

Astronomy Day is April 25, and we at Teaching with the Library of Congress are standing by with a cluster of blog posts featuring primary sources that explore changing ideas of the solar system and what lies beyond it.

Historical documents may be rooted in the past, but they provide a powerful way for the scientists and stargazers of today to familiarize themselves with scientific practices, to observe the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time, and to honor the legacy of those who have boldly gone before them.