Lantern Lectures Delight Insane Asylum
One of the more unusual venues for lantern shows was the insane asylum. The picture depicts a lantern show in a British prison, but it probably gives a good idea of both the close supervision at American asylum shows, and the delight that lantern shows brought inmates.
The idea behind lantern shows in asylums, promoted by Dr. Kirkbride of Philadelphia, was that since the inmates could not be let out into the real world, the real world should be brought to them. Surely such shows must have been a welcome respite from the institutionalized care of the time.
Such programs were well established in most asylums. For instance, the asylum in Middletown, CT had a 600-seat theater built in part for this purpose, and offered lantern lectures monthly. The Asylum Amusement Course of the Vermont State Asylum was a similar program.
However, there is little evidence of lantern shows in American prisons.
Agencies Battle for Bookings