Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern

A magic lantern was an early form of a projector originally used for entertainment and educational purposes.  It was invented in the 17th century by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens and widely used until the 20th century. This particular magic lantern was owned by Henry Craig Thomson who was born in Ridgetown in 1901.  "<!--break-->"Someone in Ridgetown who wanted to acquire a magic lantern could visit the local general store. In 1867, the general store in Ridgetown was located on Main Street and was run by John D.R. McLean.

The images from a magic lantern were projected by a small oil lamp located in the interior of the projector. A concave mirror was also put behind the light source to direct the maximum amount of light through the lantern’s lens, and a chimney allowed smoke and heat to escape. Lantern slides portrayed various scenes such as portraits, people farming or engaging in leisure activities, animals, and different places and landmarks in the world – a story could be told through the pictures. Though magic lanterns are an old technology their purpose is familiar to families today. 19th century Canadians would sit and watch the different scenes that a magic lantern portrayed, which is comparable to families sitting and watching television together. Though magic lanterns may represent a different time in Canada’s history, they also represent a sense of home and family that is still in every community today.

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