Salt Lake City magic lantern slide


Most of the magic lantern slides that I feature in my posts are British but other countries produced them in vast quantities, especially France and the USA. For some reason, their standard size was a rectangular 4 by 3.25 inches rather than the square British format, although the image size wasn’t larger, just the slide itself. In the UK, lantern slides varied in size until 1880, when there was agreement among the many manufacturers to adopt a common size of three and a quarter inches square, so that magic lantern projectors, slide changers and all the paraphernalia that went with them could be standardised as well. Nothing new here, of course, as most competing technologies start with significant variations and then, eventually, some components are standardised because it makes economic sense to do so.  


Anyway, I digress from today’s slide. It is American, in the rectangular format, and probably dates from the 1920s when, I think, the magic lantern was probably in its heyday, later than the 1890s in the UK. It is a view of Salt Lake City and is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a panoramic view and they are always fascinating, especially if you know the area, as you can compare ‘then’ and ‘now’. I don’t, so can’t. Although the streets are free of traffic, other than the trams, there are lots of parked cars compared to photos of British cities from the same period, as the American economy was on the up and we were suffering from the aftermath of the First World War.

The skyscraper in the foreground (does it still exist?) is much higher than most here one hundred years ago and the city looks prosperous. From a photographic point of view, the image is high resolution and pin sharp, so we can see lots of detail including the advertisements on the buildings. All in all, a remarkable social history record of an American city in the 1920s.


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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