A Victorian magic lantern slide of Liverpool

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In the mid Victorian period, magic lantern slides were hand painted on glass and mounted in wooden frames that measured about seven by four inches. You can see examples of these in my previous posts. In 1880, there was agreement between all of the British manufacturers to standardise the size of slides to three and a quarter inches square, without a wooden frame. As a result, magic lantern projector components and accessories were cheaper to produce and, because the slides were lighter and smaller, storage and distribution costs were lower.

There have, of course, been many examples since then of competing manufacturers initially producing different formats of the same device and eventually agreeing a common specification .…. video recorders come to mind. In the cross-over period, there is often a means of converting one form to the other and that’s what we see in today’s slide. At first sight, it’s an old-style wooden framed slide but, in fact, it’s a ‘new’, square, glass slide in a wooden frame that could be purchased by lanternists who weren’t ready to adopt the new format. They simply bought a supply of empty ‘universal’ frames and put their new square slides in them, thus converting them to the old format.

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In this particular case, the glass slide is a wonderful, pin sharp photograph of Liverpool Town Hall with horse buses and street signs. The one on the right says ‘Fisk and Fairhurst, Luncheon and Dining Establishment for Ladies and Gentlemen. Tea and Coffee Saloons’. I think the photograph was probably taken in the late 1880s or early 1890s and is, in my humble opinion, fascinating! Are there any Fisk or Fairhurst descendants out there?

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