Before Motion Pictures

LanternsThe Magic Lantern Society of the US and Canada is a group that collects, preserves and shares information on the many devices that were used to entertain and educate audiences before the beginning of cinema.

Often called a “stereopticon show,” Magic lantern shows were the combination of projected images, live narration, and live music that preceded the movies. They were incredibly popular 100 years ago.

WoodSlidesBy the 19th century, the magic lantern was used in theaters, churches, fraternal lodges, and at home by adults and children. In 1895 there were between 30,000 and 60,000 lantern showmen in the United States, giving between 75,000 and 150,000 performances a year. That means there would have been several shows a week.

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