This magic lantern slide is, in my view, very special. It was taken during the construction of the Forth Railway Bridge in the late 1880s by George Washington Wilson.
Two of our finest (and competing) Victorian photographers, Wilson and James Valentine, the construction of the bridge from its start in 1883 to completion in 1890. Neither of them was the official photographer for the project but both produced sets of magic lantern slides with a reading (script) which they sold to lecturers and the public. I have both sets in my archive, thirty five slides in total and have used them to write a booklet about how the bridge was built. These slides are a high resolution (in today’s terminology), pin sharp, beautifully composed record of what was then, and still is, a remarkable piece of engineering. I sometimes use a selection of them in my magic lantern shows and audiences are amazed by how clear and sharp they are. Over fifty men died during the construction of the bridge, which had a lot to do with the lack of a health and safety culture and, in particular, hard hats!
I recently bought another magic lantern slide of the Forth Bridge which, for me, is as interesting as those of its construction.
It probably dates from the 1920s and shows three maintenance workers on the bridge, exposed to the elements with no safety gear whatsoever. Clearly, no lessons had been learnt from the 50+ deaths during its construction. They add human interest to a beautifully composed, atmospheric image which is, in my view, more art than photograph. Anyway, I was so taken with it that I’ve given it a pop-art makeover and it’s now for sale as a greeting card in our new ‘wellthatsdifferent‘ Ebay shop.
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!