For some time we have had the use of a Phantasmagoria magic lantern together with a collection of slides. It has been on loan to us and whilst we may extend the loan period or even become the owners, it may be that soon the magic lantern will return to the family who loaned it to us.
Occasionally objects like the magic lantern and slides come up on TV antiques programmes and the presenters invariably say the slides are more interesting than the projector itself. We would agree with that although the slides, without a projector, need a bit of modern technology to make much of them.
You see, most of the slides have moving parts and the best way to see the effect is in a projector. But we’ll have a go here with only a computer.
Here is a whole slide.
This one was made by Newton of Fleet Street and we understand they were related to Isaac Newton. The slide dates from the second half of the 19th century. It may look broken with that diagonal edge of glass but it isn’t. There’s a sliding piece of glass there which, at present hides the extended dress when the lady gives us a twirl. That sliding piece of glass is called a slipper. There’s another slipper on the left hand side but because it is beneath the main piece of glass you can see a rather ghostly extended dress on that side. You wouldn’t see it when projected. But if the operator pulls both slippers at once (that’s why there are half-moons cut in the wood) the dress suddenly flings out in the way we might expect to see in flamenco dances.
Artistry and accuracy were needed to make these slides since the images are hand painted. Only the well to do folks could afford them.
And one such person was Charles Hitchcock – related to the family who loaned us the projector and slides. He owned the Fiddington Asylum in the mid to late 19th century and perhaps he used slide shows to amuse the residents. Many of the slides carry his hand written initials, like this one.
This one is a single slipper slide and you can probably already glean what happens. The brolly gets caught in the wind, blown inside out and the lady’s hat and wig are blown off.
Let’s try a different one and cut out all the background.
Here, a budding Romeo is serenading his Juliet whilst standing on a barrel. Inevitably, he falls in. Not bad!