Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: The Magic Lantern
From: (Bruce Sterling)

I have recently come into happy possession of "Peck and Snyder's Price List of Base Ball, Gymnasium, Boating, Firemen, Cricket, Archery, Lawn Tennis and Polo Implements, Guns, Skates, Fishing Tackle. Manly Sporting Goods, Novelties, &c."

This catalog was published in 1886. In 1971 it was re- released by the "American Historical Catalog Collection" of the Pyne Press at Princeton (LC# 75-24886, ISBN 0-87861-094-4).

This catalog is a veritable brass mine of dead media, offering startling insights into an entirely vanished nineteenth- century media environment. It offers for commercial sale to the public several media devices I have never heard of, plus over 40 different commercial varieties of "magic lantern."

I think it is well to have Mssrs. Peck and Snyder speak for themselves, in the first of what will doubtless turn out to be a long series of Working Notes. My commentary will be included in (((triple parens))). The Peck & Snyder full-page ad is reproduced in its entirety.


The Most Popular Magic Lantern Ever Introduced

(black and white woodcut illustration -- "this cut represents No. 2 Electro Radiant Magic Lantern. PATENTED.")

The body of the ELECTRO RADIANT is a cone-shaped reflector which gathers each divergent ray of light and concentrates them all on the main reflector, whence the whole mass of brilliancy illuminated and projects the picture with startling clearness. No combination of lenses, however ingenious, has ever been known to produce equal effects with the light used.

*The ELECTRO RADIANT No. 2 projects on screen a picture 8 feet in diameter.*

The No. 2 Lantern is made entirely of metal. Including the smoke-stack, it stands over 16 inches high when ready for use, but when taken apart it goes into a box 11x9x12 -- *small enough to carry in the hand.*

(((Imagine disassembling, by hand, a fire-driven slide projector made entirely of (red-hot) metal. Yes, the Electro Radiant Magic Lantern features a smoke-stack -- a domestic, personal smoke-stack for your parlor.)))

The removable parts are the base, the reflector, the lens tubes, the smoke-stack and the lamp. The entire base being removeable, *allows the use of any kind of light,* whether oil, gas, calcium or electric. (((Calcium??))) A large door at the side gives ample room for manipulating the light. The Slide Box will take in slides 4 1/2 inches wide with a 3-inch picture. It is very unusual that slides are made with pictures over 3 inches, and when they are they are for special purposes, and Lanterns have to be made to accommodate them. Therefore our No. 2 Lantern will show the *largest* of the regulation size slides as well as the *smallest* and *intermediate* sizes, whether made by ourselves or others here or in Europe.

(((I note here that Magic Lantern ware comes in several different size formats and from a variety of manufacturers and distributors, who apparently could not agree on a standard.)))

There are 12 slides with 2 3/4 inch pictures packed with each No. 2 Lantern and included in the price. (((The traditional "bundled software" or "first taste is free" marketing approach.)))

There are many persons who are able and willing to pay for *luxuries* -- such things as are no better for practical uses, but add to the convenience and perfection of life. The sentiment is commendable, and, for those who can afford it, is not only a proper but a wise indulgence. (((The infant consumer society still required moral lectures at this point.))) For that class (((appeals to snobbery were useful also))) we have constructed our * Electro Radiant Lanterns,* with fittings of various kinds, which, though they make the picture on the screen very little if any better, add very much to the convenience of handling and the the general appearance of an outfit, and increase the cost accordingly. (((Today this is known as "ergonomics" and "industrial design." In 1886 this practice required an apologia.)))

For instance, the price of OUR MOST POPULAR LANTERN, No. 2, is $12; but with additional conveniences the price is $15.00, $20.00 and $24.00, respectively. The $15.00 Lantern is fitted with Colt's patent Brass Spun Thread Focussing Tube, with lenses to make an eight to nine foot picture. This focussing tube is the best improvement that has been made in years. It is perfect in working, adjustable by simple turning; there is no loss of light through uneven fitting, it does not catch or hitch, and is as easily and nicely adjustable as the highest price Rack and Pinion Tube made. (((One cannot help but marvel as this sudden revelation of an entire peripherals industry for Magic Lanterns. Could this be the same "Colt" who created the Colt revolver?)))

For use with a nine-foot screen we recommend the $15.00 No. 2 LANTERN ABOVE ALL OTHERS. The $20.00 No. 2 Lantern may be used with a twelve or fifteen foot screen, and therefore may be operated in a room that will hold more people. The $24.00 Magic Lantern is precisely the same as the $20.00 one, except that it has the lenses set in a rack and pinion focussing tube, made of heavy cast brass with milled head adjusting connection, which makes a very stylish and handsome appearance.

*Price List of No. 2 Electro Radiant Magic Lanterns

No. 2. With Piano Convex Lenses.........$12.00

No. 2A. With Piano Convex Lenses in Colt's Pat Spun Thread

Focussing Tube...........................$15.00

No. 2B, Double Achromatic Lenses in Colt's Pat Spun thread tube


No. 2C, Double Achromatic Lenses in heavy brass rack and pinion

focussing tube..........$24.00

12 Slides are packed with each No. 2 Lantern.

P E C K & S N Y D E R,

126, 128 & 130 Nassau Street, New York.

Importers and Dealers in English, French and German Magic Lanterns, at prices from $2.00 to $50.00 each, and also in those of the best American make, prices $5.00 to 75.00 each.

(((It must be noted in concluding that the "Electro Radiant," illustrated with a burning gas lamp, has nothing "electro" about it. The Electro is entirely rhetorical, a futuristic fillip for a cutting-edge device which has already killed off the unlucky "Electro Radiant No. 1.")))