Scholarly Background 2017-06-12T19:47:31+00:00

Selected Bibliography


These articles and books present scholarly background for the information summarized in the Museum’s Tours of American Lantern Shows.  They are referred to by number in the “Archival Notes” section at the end of each exhibit.
The Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada maintains an archive of past articles from The Magic Lantern Gazette, its research journal.  Many other articles in this journal will be useful for those interested in understanding the role of the lantern in American (and world) culture.
  1. Abel, Richard. “That Most American of Attractions, the Illustrated Song.” In Sounds of Early Cinema, edited by Richard Abel and Rick Altman, 13-155.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.  (Available here. Describes the phenomenon of illustrated songs using lantern slides projected between the early movies.)
  2. Adele, Lynne & Webb, Bruce Lee. As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930.  Austin: University of Texas  Press, 2015.  (Available here.  Actually has very little on secret-society magic-lantern slides, but otherwise an extensive study of the fraternal visual culture  that was a major part of American magic-lantern use.)
  3. Bak, Meredith A. “‘Ten Dollars’ Worth of Fun’: The Obscured History of the Toy Magic Lantern and Early Children’s Media Spectatorship.” Film History, vol. 27, no. 1, 2015, pp. 111–134. JSTOR,  (Children as magic-lantern showmen and audiences.)
  4. Balzer, Dick. “The Magic Lantern and the Klondike Gold Rush,” The Magic Lantern Gazette  26:4, (Winter, 2014): 3-7. (Gold in the Magic-Lantern Gold Rush . . .  for Sears Roebuck.)
  5. Barber, X. Theodore. “Phantasmagorical Wonders: The Magic Lantern Ghost Show in Nineteenth-Century America.” Film History, vol. 3, no. 2, 1989, pp. 73–86. JSTOR,  (Traces the Phantasmagoria in America.)
  6. Barber, X. Theodore. “The Roots of Travel Cinema: John L. Stoddard, E. Burton Holmes and the Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Travel Lecture.” Film History, vol. 5, no. 1, 1993, pp. 68–84. JSTOR,  (A widely-read article on Stoddard and Holmes.)
  7. Borton, Terry. “238 Eminent American ‘Magic-Lantern’ Showmen: The Chautauqua Lecturers,” The Magic Lantern Gazette  5, (Spring 2013): 3-34.  (A study of some of the major lantern showman on the Chautauqua circuit.  See also the last two articles in this list.)
  8. Borton, Terry. “The Professional Life of ‘Magic-Lantern’ Illustrated Lecturers—With Introductions to Most Professionals Performing from the 1890s to the 1920s, Part One,” The Magic Lantern Gazette 27:1 (Spring 2015), 3-27 and, Part Two,  27:2-3 (Summer/Fall 2015). (This is a two-part study of how professional lanternists operated.  Taken together with the Chautauqua article above, the three articles provide names for most professional American lantern performers, together with enough information about them and their shows to give the reader a good overview of major American lantern showmen, and scholars a good starting place for further research.)
  9. Borton, Terry. “Outstanding Colorists of American Magic-Lantern Slides,” The Magic Lantern Gazette 26:1 (Spring 2014), 3-22.  (Describes the major colorists for American professional lantern showmen.)
  10. Borton, Terry and Debbie. “How Many American Lantern Shows in a Year?”  In Realms of Light: Uses and Perceptions of the Magic Lantern from the 17th to the 21st Century, edited by Richard Crangle, Mervyn Heard, Ine van Dooren. 105-115.  London: The Magic Lantern Society, 2005),   (Click to read.  A detailed study of lantern shows in one city in the period Jan.–March, 1895.)
  11. Borton, Terry and Deborah. Before the Movies: American Magic-Lantern Entertainment and the Nation’s First Great Screen Artist, Joseph Boggs Beale.  New Barnet, England: John Libbey Publishing, 2014. 24:1 (Available here.  Includes a condensed Catalogue Raisonné of Beale’s 2086 lantern slide images.)
  12. Caldwell, Genoa. The Man Who Photographed the World: Burton Holmes Travelogues 1892-1938.  New York: Harry Abrams, Inc., 1977.  (Available here.  A vivid display of the work of America’s second most popular illustrated lecturer.)
  13. Cox, Madeline. The Politics and Art of John L. Stoddard: Reframing Authority, Otherness, and Authenticity. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.  (Available here.  This book looks at America’s most famous magic-lantern showman, John L. Stoddard.)
  14. Huhtamo, Erkki. Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013. (Available here.  This book is more focused on the panorama than the lantern, but helps to put the lantern in the context of other early visual media.)
  15. Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907, Volume 1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. (Available here. This is the seminal study of the history of the early movies, with particular attention to the role of the magic lantern in its development.)
  16.  Musser, Charles. “Passions and the Passion Play: Theatre, Film and Religion in America, 1880-1900.” Film History, vol. 5, no. 4, 1993, pp. 419–456.  JSTOR,  (A broad look at the Passion Play in America.)
  17. Musser, Charles, Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016. (Available here. A carefully researched look at a little known but important use of the lantern—as the 1890s hot new media for political politicking.)
  18. Rhodes, Gary D. “The Origin and Development of the American Moving Picture Poster.” Film History, vol. 19, no. 3, 2007, pp. 228–246. JSTOR,  (Magic-lantern posters and broadsides in film history.)
  19. Wells, Kentwood. “Magic Lanterns: Christmas Toys for Boys.Magic Lantern Gazette 22.1 (2010): 10-14.  (All about that most popular of toys.)
  20. Wells, Kentwood. “What’s in a Name? The Magic Lantern and the Stereopticon in American Periodicals, 1860–1900.Magic Lantern Gazette 20.3 (2008): 8-11.  (How the “stereopticon” replaced the “magic lantern” in American parlance.)
  21. Willis, Artemis. “Between nonfiction screen practice and nonfiction peep practice: The Keystone ‘600 Set’and the geographical mode of representation.” Early Popular Visual Culture 13.4 (2015): 293-312.  (Examination of the most popular educational set of slides in America.)


The best single source for the early history of the lantern and its European development, plus additional information on all aspects of lantern culture, including the companies and techniques discussed here, is David Robinson, Stephen Herbert, Richard Crangle, eds., Encyclopaedia of the Magic Lantern (London, England: The Magic Lantern Society, 2001). For information on the Encyclopaedia, and the other excellent publications of the Magic Lantern Society in England, visit their web site here.

An online Zotero discussion group about magic-lantern research is available here.

Lucerna is a data base of information on the magic lantern.

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