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Cassius Coolidge’s Patent Portfolio

Patent 149724 Cover Image

Processes of Taking Photographic Pictures

Coolidge received a patent for “Processes of Taking Photographic Pictures.” More commonly these were referred to as Comic Foregrounds, where one could stick their head through a cutout and appear to be in a completely different scene or another person. Today, these are most often seen at circuses, where one can instantly become to be a strong man or scantily clad woman. Interestingly though, Coolidge’s patent encompassed only the case of using this arrangement to produce an image of a person with their normal head, but the sketch of a very tiny body. Whether this idea was patent worthy is hard to tell looking back over 125 years. Regardless though, Patent 149,724 was issued for this idea on April 14, 1874 and has long since expired. For those wanting all the details, the entire terse, two page patent can be viewed below.

Patent 149,724—Processes of Taking Photographic Pictures [Link to Portable Document Format (PDF) File]

Coolidge’s Comic Foreground sketches

Coolidge’s Comic Foreground sketches

Although this patent was very specific, Coolidge created many different drawings to be used as inserts for these staged photo shoots. A collection of his ideas included 158 colored sketches with descriptions, and an additional fifty pencil only outlines of caricatures, and instructions for the photographer on how to properly use the Comic Foregrounds. An example scene even included a portrait of Coolidge’s own head attached to an image of a flying goose with reins.

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