History of Slide Projectors

These pages and images are content related to the exhibit of lantern slide and 35mm slide projectors in the Art History entrance/gallery of Gannett Center. Curated by Randi Millman-Brown, Visual Resources Curator.

Lantern slide (also known as a "magic lantern"): The magic lantern or Laterna Magica is an early type of image projector developed in the 17th century.

Lantern slides were introduced in 1849, ten years after the invention of photography. It was transparent image on glass that could be projected. These slides were large (3 ½ x 4”) and fragile. This new use for photography expanded its use, making photographic images available to a larger audience for education and entertainment.

The magic lantern was not only a direct ancestor of the motion picture projector, but it could itself be used to project moving images, which was achieved by the use of various types of mechanical slides. Typically, two glass slides, one with the stationary part of the picture and the other with the part that was to move, would be placed one on top of the other and projected together, then the moving slide would be hand-operated, either directly or by means of a lever or other mechanism. Chromotrope slides, which produced eye-dazzling displays of continuously cycling abstract geometrical patterns and colors, were operated by means of a small crank and pulley wheel that rotated a glass disc. (from Wikipedia)

For many examples of Magic Lantern projectors see: http://www.magiclantern.org.uk/history/lanterns.php

35mm slide film (1 3/8 x 15/16” film in a 2 x 2” mount) was invented in 1935 and became the new standard for image projection, especially within academic departments. However, by the mid-2000’s, digital images became the preferred medium for image projection.

35mm slide projectors, direct descendants of the larger-format magic lantern, first came into widespread use during the 1950s as a form of occasional home entertainment; family members and friends would gather to view slide shows, which typically consisted of Kodachrome slides taken during vacations and at family events. Slide projectors were also widely used in educational and other institutional settings. Production of 35mm slide projectors ended ca. 2004. Kodachrome film was discontinued in 2009.

Photographic film slides and projectors have mostly been replaced by image files on digital storage media shown on a projection screen by using a digital video projector or simply displayed on a large-screen video monitor.

For a gallery of images of related to slide shows and slide manuals see: https://www.ithaca.edu/hs/vrc/gallery/7513/

For a step back in time, check out this 1959 commercial for the Ansco slide projector (stop by the VRC to see a real one in the collection): 1959 ANSCOMATIC SLIDE PROJECTOR COMMERCIAL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bd2S61w9dB0