Magic-lantern show coming soon

By Joan Hunt - ReminderNews Managing Editor
Windsor - posted Fri., Oct. 7, 2011
This image is called ‘North and South Shake Hands,’ from the show that is coming to the Windsor Historical Society. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Before there was cinema, there was the magic-lantern show, where a huge brass and mahogany projector lit with gas “limelight” projected hand-colored slides onto the screen. The limelight was created when oxygen and hydrogen were squirted on a piece of limestone, which turned incandescent once the gases were lit, and produced a light as powerful as that in a modern movie projector. According to Christine Ermenc, director of the Windsor Historical Society, many of the earliest movie projectors were simply adapted magic-lantern projectors.

The magic-lantern was invented in the 1650s, beginning with a lantern lit by a feeble candle. Often the shows were about supernatural characters like devils, goblins and wizards – and that is how the magic-lantern got its name.

A hundred years ago, this moving picture entertainment began to be replaced, but during the end of the 19th century, magic-lanterns were everywhere – in homes, in churches, in schools, in large-scale halls and theaters – and they were a regular part of home and public entertainment.

Described as America’s first great screen artist, Joseph Boggs Beale (1841-1926) created a vast repertoire of 250 illustrated stories, songs, history lessons and fraternal rituals for the magic-lantern. According to the book, “Cinema Before Film: Victorian Magic Lantern Shows and America’s First Great Screen Artist, Joseph Boggs Beale,” the genius of Beale’s slides was partly in the way each slide advanced the story plot, providing a new, dramatic “action image.”

Many of the magic-lantern slides were animated. A live showman and musician provided the soundtrack, and the audience joined in with sound effects.  The performances were usually melodramatic, and magic-lanterns were even used in séances during the latter part of the 18th century.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, in two different showings – one at 11 a.m. and another at 7 p.m. – the Windsor Historical Society will bring “The Victorian Patriotic Magic-Lantern Show!” to Windsor. Space is limited, so reserve yours today.

The cost of the program is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students and $4 for members. Call 860-688-3813 or visit the Windsor Historical Society on the web at The Windsor Historical Society is located at 96 Palisado Ave.

Let us know what you think!
Please be as specific as possible.
Include your name and email if you would like a response back.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the code without spaces and pay attention to upper/lower case.