Shelby Museum's Magic Lantern
The magic lantern was an early means of projecting an image. The image could be a
painted scene, an inked cartoon, or a photo printed on a transparent media (glass or
celluloid) such as the 10 slides featured elsewhere in this article. The lantern projector
was invented in the 1600s, during the same time period as telescopes, microscopes,
and other instruments requiring the development of optical lenses.


The light required to illuminate the slide was first provided by candles and later by
sources such as coal oil lamps and (much later) electric incandescent lamps. Depending
on the source of light, the lantern may require a chimney to let the heat from the source
escape. Shelby's magic lantern employed an incandescent lamp and merely has an
opening to allow ventilation for the generated heat.

The above view shows the lantern interior with the electric lamp socket and
reflector moved to the rear for better viewing. The reflector redirects the incident
light from the source in a manner to maximize the light passing through the slide.
There are several adjustments (above) that aid in the correct positioning of the reflector.
The reflector and electric socket assembly removed from the lantern to display the two
posts where the wires from the electric source are attached. The assembly is shown
placed on a part of the lantern enclosure. The knob on the far right side of the
enclosure allows adjustment of the intensity of the electric light source.
The lantern slide is held in position by a part that is missing on our projector. The
slide holder would be positioned between the enclosure and the lens assembly at (1).

The knobs labeled 2 and 3, allow adjustment of the lens assembly in a manner to focus
the image on a distant surface and also determine the size of the image. Their operation
is similar to the size and focus controls on a LCD image projector.
This is a very fundamental description of the operation of our magic lantern and all
lanterns may vary slightly; therefore, further information is available on the web site
recommended by Ron and Dorothy Easterday:

   Information on the Easterday Magic Lantern slides 


Copyright 2018 - The Shelby Museum of History, Inc.