Magic Lantern Slides are essentially an older version of the 35mm slides. Each slide is roughly 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. They are readily available on eBay because not only were they printed in the thousands, they were sold as an educational tool to schools across the country. A form of the Magic Lantern slide projector was invented as early at 1650.
The first one was used to project the image of an demon. Other lanterns were possibly used even earlier, known as “the lantern of fear,” they were used by sorcerers and conjurers to display frightening images to the un-educated masses. They were likely used by priests also and the method of their production (and existence) a well guarded secret.
The major manufacturer of the “modern” Magic Lantern slide was the Keystone View Company. The company started in 1892 when French Creek in Meadville Pennsylvania over flowed. Photographer Benneville Lloyd Singley photographed the flood and sold the images under the name Keystone View Company. By 1895 there were 700 different slides being sold. By 1905 the number had expanded to 20,000 different slides. Through purchase of competitors and their collections, and their own photographers, the collection grew to two million images.
Slides were subjects from all over the world. They included specific subjects for educational needs such as anatomy, birds, maps, daily life. Just about any subject was possible.