Toy magic lantern slides


There are two distinct types of magic lantern slide projector, full-sized ‘real’ ones and much smaller, toy versions which were mainly produced in Germany in the early 1900s. I’ve not collected children’s toy slides because they tend to be drawings rather than photos. However, just occasionally, something has been offered to me that I’ve thought worthy of adding to the archive.

Today’s three slides are from a boxed set of eight toy lantern slides. Each one is a colour lithograph (transfer) on a single sheet of glass. Large lantern slides have a protective ‘cover’ glass which protects the photographic emulsion, that has the image on it, from damage but children’s slides don’t, so one hundred years later, they are often badly scratched. As you can see, these have survived rather well, with no scratches and colours as vivid as when they were new, which was probably around 1900.


The original box describes the contents as ‘comic figures’. What they actually show is a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds and professions. There doesn’t seem to be a particular theme and we have to imagine how a ten year old, say, would have used them to entertain their family and friends. Although each slide has five characters, only one would have appeared on the screen at a time. Perhaps the successive pictures would have produced howls of laughter but it’s lost on me. I guess you had to be there!

Some of the images on the slides are unacceptable today (especially those I haven’t photographed) as they are stereotypes of particular ethnic groups that aren’t very flattering. Thank goodness we’ve moved on. Well, I think we have ….. haven’t we?


If you found this interesting, please share it with your family and friends. If you’re not reading it on my ‘Magic Lantern World‘ website, then please visit. There are over one hundred illustrated articles about Victorian slide projection and links to my historical photo-booklets on Amazon, my Ebay shop for magic lantern slides and Etsy store for historical photo greetings cards with a twist. You can read about my authentic Victorian magic lantern shows and talks on ‘Optical entertainments before the movies’ and lots more!

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