In previous posts, I’ve discussed the use of magic lantern slide story sets to tell moral (and immoral) tales.
They were produced by commercial businesses and their message was fairly direct ….. thou shalt not gamble, drink, steal etc. but they were presented in a visually attractive way to keep an audience entertained. Churches also used magic lantern slides to preach their message but usually didn’t bother with the entertainment bit! Some denominations had lantern slide departments which produced and distributed countless thousands of slides of bible stories, printed hymns and even whole sermons. If you were a vicar or minister preparing a Church service, you could look for relevant material in a slide catalogue, order it and have it delivered by post, show the slides during the service and then return them ….. the 1890s versions of video rental, mail order and power-point presentations!
As heavy, glass magic lantern slides were replaced by smaller, lighter formats in the 1930/40s, Churches tended not to keep up with the latest technology, as they had invested heavily, over many decades, in their slide stock and most, even in the 1950s, still had a magic lantern projector, so why bother? The one exception was the use of 35mm film strips in the 1950s and 60s, usually shown on an Aldis projector (remember them?) to show bible and missionary stories in Sunday Schools. The poor quality drawings and photos on the strips were incredibly boring.
The highlight of Christian, magic lantern slide output was, in my view, the one-picture message slides, three of which are shown here. These were designed to appeal to children and impart a message that a long sermon wouldn’t. I hope you agree that, in this case, a picture really does tell a thousand words.