Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Magic Lantern Shows

Imagine the excitement as you and your parents enter the hall filled with people and the lights darken. You are seven years old and about to see your first magic lantern show. It is Christmas and the show features a happy family enjoying the snow and welcoming their 'prodigal son' who arrives just in time for Christmas dinner. The slides flicker and change and you are lost in the magic of this other

Magic lantern shows were popular well into the twentieth century. They were presented at halls, schools and even churches. The largest could have eight operators and audiences of up to 2000 people. Sometimes they consisted of 'song slides' - picture shows with actors which accompanied popular songs. Photomontages and primitive special effects were sometimes used.

The shows in churches and schools were for educational purposes or special treats for the children. They could show scenes from different lands or missionaries educating foreign children. Sometimes these shows would have a narrator.

Until the First World War magic-lantern slides were also used to present the news at the cinema. Slide shows were presented of depictions by artists of Boer War battles, for example. Slide shows also told the story of the Titanic disaster.

Slides were also shown at the cinema to encourage good behaviour from the audience. For example, gentlemen were asked not to smoke or to remove their hats.

You can find many short Edwardian slideshows on the Internet. I enjoyed this one.

Bishop Auckland Slideshow

1 comment:

Hels said...

I agree that magic-lantern slides were hugely popular when presenting the news at the cinema. You mentioned Boer War battles and the story of the Titanic disaster, as great examples.

I mentioned slide shows in a post about WW1 but I was not confident back then that it was true. As suggested by "Captured in Colour", (Nola Anderson and Ian Hodges eds), the photographers' colour plates could not be readily incorporated into printed formats, but they could be used to present slide shows. These were held in public venues back in Australia, exactly as you said, while the war was still in progress.

Now I feel better :)
Thanks for the link