The magic lantern lasted longer…

Last year I delved into the intersection of science and entertainment in the 1850s, focusing on the Magic Lantern.


I had thought the magic lantern was just a slide projector with light furnished by flame instead of electricity. The machine was partly similar, but the ACTUAL USE of the magic lantern before 1900 was interactive and animated, unlike both slides and cinema.

The key to a good magic lantern spectacle was in the slideRs, which were NOT the same thing as slides.

Closeup view of a lantern with a typical slideR mechanism:

The lamp (alcohol or whale oil) was focused by the mirror in back. The tiny cranks drove a miniature conveyor belt, making it possible to move one slider back and forth, or move one smaller slider across a bigger one.

Here the fixed slider is Polistra’s home, and the movable slider is HappySun moving across the horizon.

Sliding and dissolving animations were highly developed in 1850. Many other variations were available, including miniature silhouette figures that danced when you turned the crank. These were about 3 inches high, packing a lot of mechanism into a small space.

Some were intended solely for amusement:

We know what French means, don’t we? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Others were more educational:

The Scientific Lantern is the real interface point of magic and entertainment and science. Magic shows and science shows were the same thing. Serious scientists like Faraday enjoyed creating stage spectacles to illustrate the devices and principles they were developing.

This Scientific Lantern has the lamp as above, but instead of sliders it has a big space between lamp and lens where you could mount various kinds of experiments and displays.

Here the target is a conductivity cell, which would be part of a full experimental setup like this:

The bubbles and reactions in the cell would be visible to the audience.

The platform in the Scientific Lantern could also hold an aquarium or terrarium with critters, preferably transparent or translucent critters.

= = = = =

Along with the loss of interactivity, there’s a MUCH BIGGER moral to this story. When science was a form of entertainment, everyone could see and ENJOY the actual process of observation and experimentation. When science had user-serviceable parts, everyone could participate in science.

In 1946 science merged with Deepstate and became a tool of surveillance and genocide. We are no longer allowed to see how science works. We no longer get to hear or participate in open descriptions and discussions. Nothing leaks out, nothing is ever displayed or revealed.

We only get to experience the massively evil and demonic ACTIONS of science when it imprisons and binds and gags and kills us by the millions.





Surprisingly, the Magic Lantern continued well into the 20th century. A new item at American Radio Library is a science supply catalog from 1915. Along with the expected induction coils and spark gaps, it includes quite a few entertainment items.

Geissler tubes:

‘Fancy tubes’:

Slot cars in 1915! They went away and reappeared in the ’60s.

A book on designing a vaudeville theater. Note the Magic Lantern Act and the opaque projector:

And last but not least, a Medical Coil, recommended for rheumatism, neuralgia, etc.