By the early 20th century, magic lantern projectors and glass lantern slides were very common. As with all technologies, manufacturers found ways to reduce production costs and, at the same time, create new markets. By reducing the price of the hardware, the slide projector, more and more families could afford to buy one for home entertainment and the number of slides (the software) produced and sold rocketed.
Traditionally, the finest magic lanterns were made of mahogany and best quality brass but they were now available for the mass market made of tinplate with low quality brass fittings and cheap lenses. But, they worked, and would throw an image six feet or so onto a sheet or white wall. I have one in my collection retailed in the 1920s by the ‘Boys Own’ magazine with an original leaflet showing how to use it and slide sets that could be purchased, which I will feature in a future post.
Talking of the Boys Own magazine, which inspired many young men to have a life-long interest in engineering, in the 1950s my father-in-law built a full-sized sailing dinghy in the back yard of his terraced house, using plans from a Boys Own magazine. He sailed it successfully for many years on the River Trent near Nottingham. Amazing!
Anyway, back to the point of this post. A company called W. Butcher and Sons using the ‘Primus’ trademark, produced highly coloured, lithographic sets of slides of well-known stories, in boxes of eight slides, complete with a script to read to the audience whilst showing the slides. If the story required more than eight slides, it was split into chapters, each sold separately. These sets were very popular with children, there were over 180 topics for them to choose from and they sold for about thirty years, up to the start of the Second World War.
I’ve shown three Primus slides from the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ set, which had twenty four slides in three chapters. They are delightful images and occasionally turn up for sale on Ebay. As a collector of social history, photographic slides, they’re not really my thing but I can understand the attraction for those who seek them out.