45. Science and Nature Lecturers
Magic Lantern Astronomy
Science, especially Magic Lantern Astronomy, was another important area of lantern shows.
Mary Proctor was the daughter of a famous astronomer, and a major popularizer of the subject. Photographs taken through the telescope literally opened up new worlds to audiences when projected through the lantern. One of Proctor’s most popular lectures was in fact called, Are There Other Worlds Than Ours? In an 1897 letter Proctor proposes doing that lecture for $50, about $850 today. She was represented by the Pond Agency, one of the best-known. Her slides were colored, like the one shown, unusual for astronomy shows.
Science shows could draw huge crowds. This show on paleontology was held in the amphitheater of the “Mother Chautauqua” in upstate New York—a 5,000 seat space. The lanternist and lantern are suspended from the ceiling so that audience members did not cast shadows on screen.