Early aviation magic lantern slides

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After forty years of collecting magic lantern slides and having bought, during that time, over a quarter of a million of them, I’m still surprised by the range of subjects that slide makers produced in the hope that someone would buy their products. Busy street scenes of London would, of course, have been of interest to audiences who would never have the money or opportunity to visit their capital city and scenes of rural life and farming might have appealed to city dwellers but many other subjects, such as a forty slide set on cheese making or photos of street traders that audience members would have seen every day, would, you’d think, have had a very limited market. Nevertheless, such sets were included in suppliers’ catalogues and when oddments from photographic sets turn up, they can provide a valuable record of the lives of our ancestors one hundred and more years ago, as today’s slides demonstrate.

It’s difficult to appreciate now just how difficult it must have been for people to get their heads around the idea of flying machines in the early years of the 20th century. Hot air balloons had been around for a long time but the idea of a heavier-than-air, self-powered machine that could not only get off the ground and land again but potentially carry passengers, must have been the equivalent of us imagining that one day we’ll be able to access all the world’s information on a screen in the palm of our hand ….. obviously that’ll never happen! 

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The captions on these three slides are ‘The Zeppelin No. 8’, ‘A German military aeroplane starting off reconnoitering’ and ‘Blackpool: Farman’s 47 mile flight’. It’s striking how fragile and primitive the aeroplanes are and how large the airship is.

Given the way our technology is accelerating (it’s not linear progression), I suspect we are much less in awe of new inventions than the Edwardians were.

To see more early aviation photos from my archive, you can watch this video on my YouTube Channel.

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