Magic-lantern show coming soon

By Joan Hunt - ReminderNews Managing Editor
Windsor - posted Fri., Oct. 7, 2011
Contributed
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 www.windsorhistoricalsociety.org. The Windsor Historical Society is located at 96 Palisado Ave.


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