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Illuminating
Lantern Slides

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[Untitled], 1939, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Jean A. Hembroff MacDonald fonds (V797/II/PS-28)

Drawing from the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies' collection of lantern slides, we will take a look at photographers who created lantern slides to capture the mountain ranges of Western Canada. 

Illuminating Lantern Slides has been researched and written by Kate Riordon, Archives Assistant, as part of the Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage Internship Program.

This website is an in depth exploration of lantern slides, how they are made, and what they were used for.

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Lantern Slides

Lantern slides were the first projected images, dating back to the mid 17th century. Originally made with drawn images on glass, lantern slides became a hugely popular base for photography well into the 1900s before slowly being replaced by celluloid film slides.

Displayed through a magic lantern projector, lantern slides could be coloured in with paint or ink and were made by everyone from amateur photographers, to school teachers, to government agencies. 

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Projector Magic Lantern, ca. 1900, glass; metal, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Gift of Nicholas Morant, 2006 (104.41.1213 a-d)

This magic lantern has a small slit between the body and the lens where thin slides would be inserted.

Lit by an oil lamp, metal lanterns like this one would get very hot. The decorative feet helped to keep the lantern away from a table's top and prevent scorching.

Most commonly used for photography after the mid 1800s, lantern slides could also be made by hand, and could be made to move. 

More often made by entertainers for theatre settings, "slipping slides" were a precursor to movies and used two or more glass slides to create simple motions.

 

Spinning kaleidoscopes of colours, people jumping, eyes moving, rolling wheels, and chopping motions could all be achieved through the use of small gears and levers to expose or obscure aspects of the projected picture.

The Great Divide, n.d., Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Archives General File Collection (V8/5486/PS-2)

Fraser Canon, B.C., n.d., Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Archives General File Collection (V8/5486/PS-8)

After the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) established hotels along its route through the Rocky Mountains, the area saw more and more people visiting and exploring - most of them taking pictures. Glass negatives were a common medium for many of these photographers as their standard sizes were compatible with most cameras by 1890 and could be easily carried out into the mountains. Upon development into positives they could simply be made into lantern slides if desired.

The additional option to add colour to the slides also meant they could be used by companies like the CPR as marketing tools abroad, just as frequently as visitors could use them to dazzle their families.  

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[Untitled], 1939, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Jean A. Hembroff MacDonald fonds (V797/II/PS-29)

Not all lantern slides survived intact throughout the years. Sometimes it is possible for heat, moisture, or oxygen to access the image within its glass casing. Depending on the photographic and/or development process, these elements can affect an image differently.

 

Here are a few examples:

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[Untitled], ca. 1930, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canadian Pacific Railway fonds (V782/PS-56)

The bubbles visible throughout this slide are likely a result of the photographic emulsion (the chemical layer that holds the image to the glass) becoming too hot and peeling away.

The large splotch in the middle may be a result of excess heat, but only to the point where the ink began to bleed within the emulsion layer.

how to make a lantern slide

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To make a lantern slide, all you need is two pieces of glass, your image, a paper frame, and some binding tape.

Sometimes a label was added to the paper window with details like a title, location, and/or date. Additionally, a small sticker was usually stuck to one corner - these stickers were used to orient the slide and would contain a number if part of a specific sequence. 

Photographic lantern slides could also be made by using light sensitive emulsion on glass and exposing directly onto the "back" pane of glass. After the image was developed, it would be treated with a waterproof sealant and then construction of the slide continued like above (from step 2).

 
 
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Mary Catharine Robb, ca. 1865, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/IV/A/PT-1)

[Untitled], ca. 1860, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/IV/A/PT-19)

Note the faint pink tinting on the cheeks of these portraits.

Throughout the latter half of the 1800s new variations of colour photography continued to be released, almost all of which entailed introducing the colour during the development process. It could be argued that these processes did not achieve commercial success due to the fact that the development processes were complicated, time-consuming, and required multiple negatives of the same image. Additionally, unlike black and white photographs, which were printed on something stable like paper, glass, or precious metals, early colour photographs had to be displayed through a projector in order to be seen in colour.

 

There is another aspect to take into consideration when looking at why colour photography did not gain widespread commercial popularity until the latter half of the 20th century: people became used to black and white photography.

Camera, 1900-1903, skin; metal; wood, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Gift of Unknown, 1968 (104.41.1004 a,b)

The introduction of celluloid film as an alternative to glass-based photography in the early 20th century opened up new avenues in the field of photography that included both moving pictures and natural colour photos.

By 1939 Kodak’s Kodachrome film dominated the commercial market. While glass-based slides were still being produced, and many “professional” photographers still worked in black and white, the general public increased their use of colour film for their pictures. Far from being the only manufacturer on the market by the mid 20th century, Kodak went on to become a name synonymous with photography. The age of digital photography has hampered Kodak’s prominence in the industry, but even today it is an instantly recognizable name.

View of the Banff Springs Hotel and Golf Course, 1939, George Vaux X, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, George Vaux X fonds (V654/I/E/PS-9)

A short rest, 1925-1931, Leonard Leacock, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leonard Leacock fonds (V353/I/B/PS-30)

Our relationship with colour photography has changed significantly in the 21st century thanks in large part to the widespread influence of the digital camera. Now not only are we able to capture the world around us in real colour, we can review the picture and make edits almost as soon as it is taken. Smartphones equipped with cameras have made it easier than ever for people to take pictures and share them with the world.

history of Colour photography

Photography, as it is recognized today, was invented in 1839 when men like Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Sir John Herschel were accredited with various components that make up the standard photographic process.

Daguerre's sharp black and white photographs were favoured over Talbot's softly coloured images by consumers in the early 1840s and, as a result, it is often Daguerre who is credited with inventing photography. 

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[Untitled], ca. 1850, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/IV/A/PT-5)

Daguerre was able to create the first permanent photographs using treated silver plates and mercury fumes. He called this photograph type the "Daguerreotype."

 

These photographs, which are rather soft by today’s standards, were both the negative and positive image in one and so could not be replicated – they were completely unique.

Photography developed predominantly from a desire to capture the world around us and the people we love in a manner true to life. Due to limitations of the day, early successes in the photographic process saw photographs rendered in monochromatic tones, lacking the vibrancy of colour found in the natural world.

The first obvious solution to black and white photography in the 19th century was to simply add colour to the picture with paints. In the realm of portraiture, photography came as a heavy blow since photographic portraits soon became cheaper to obtain than painted ones. Faced with the possibility of losing their livelihoods, portraitists began offering to paint photographs in addition to their own work, or wholesale changed professions and offered the complete process. Studios appeared on every street in major cities by the 1850s. The use of colour in portrait photography was a remnant held over from painted portraiture and did not extend in the same way to other photographic topics such as architecture or landscape.

Box Camera, 1840-1850, wood; glass; metal, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Gift of Catharine Robb Whyte, 1979 (104.41.0005 a,b)

Folding Camera, 1890-1910, wood; skin; metal; glass, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, gift of Catharine Robb Whyte, 1979 (104.41.0007)

[Untitled], ca. 1925, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline Hinman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-8)

Victoria Glacier, 1900, Mary M. Vaux, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Vaux family fonds (V653/I/NA-328)

By the 1850s and 60s not only were photographic development processes getting faster and cheaper, cameras were also advancing – they became lighter, lenses improved, and exposure times dropped down to seconds rather than minutes. People were soon able to take photography out of controlled environments and go farther afield. One of the most obvious topics that drew such intrepid photographers was war. In 1969, Helmut and Alison Gernshiem wrote in The History of Photography that wars have always been exciting topics for pictures if the photographer is willing to venture into those war zones. They said that war photographers also took gambles when selling their photos to newspapers because they were also selling them to the public. Because newspapers into the late 1900s were printed in black and white, the public became accustomed to seeing "newsworthy" photographs in that format. 

Serious photographs, real photographs, true photographs were in black and white. So confident was the public in this opinion that it became its own kind of fact for decades. As George Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company began to establish themselves as a dominant figure in the field of photography, even their efforts to introduce commercially available colour film were met with resistance. Photography had reached a point around the mid 1900s where a photograph was not taken seriously by the public or critics alike if it was in colour.  

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[Untitled], 1940-1945, Nicholas Morant, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Nicholas Morant fonds (V500/I/A2/S/5/NA-1)

Nicholas Morant contributed to the Canadian War effort from 1940-1945 by taking photos of munitions factories and soldier training camps across the country.

Kodak Retina II, ca. 1940, metal; glass; skin, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Gift of Clifford J. White, 1988 (104.41.1077 a-c)

Kodak Retina II, ca. 1940, metal; glass; skin, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies,Gift of Clifford J. White, 1988 (104.41.1077 a-c)

 
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photographer biographies

Leonard Leacock

Leonard “Doc” Leacock (1904-1992) was a renowned musician, teacher, mountaineer, and photographer.

[Leonard Leacock asleep on backpacks], n.d., Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leacock family fonds (V352/PA/23)

In 1908, at the age of 4 years old, Leacock and his family moved from England to Banff at the prompting of Sid Unwin, who had served alongside his father Harry Leacock in the Boer War. It was while Harry was serving in WWI that Leacock found his love of the piano.

[Leonard Leacock with horse], 1929, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leonard Leacock fonds (V353/PA/365/2)

[Leonard Leacock at piano], n.d., Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leacock family fonds (V352/PA/22)

Caroline hinman

[Caroline Hinman with baby camel], 1926, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline Hinman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-9)

Caroline Hinman (1884-1966) of New Jersey regularly hosted tours throughout the Canadian Rockies “off the beaten track” from where the bulk of visitors tended to go. Her first introduction to the Rockies was with the Alpine Club of Canada in 1913 and she was so enamoured with the terrain and the simplicity of trail life that she dedicated at least the next 25 years of her life to sharing it with others.

[Six women posing for the camera], ca. 1924, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline Hinman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-136)

[Untitled], 1926, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline HInman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-99)

During the summer months she arranged trips from the eastern United States by train north into Canada and eventually west into the Rockies, from where they would be met by guides and pack trains and the real trip into the mountains began. By her own admission Hinman wanted to share the serenity and adventure she found in the Canadian Rockies with young ladies – she herself never married nor had children, so dedicated was she to sharing the hidden corners of the world with others.

In the winters she was equally busy planning trips to the far-flung corners of the globe: Egypt, the Sudan, the Sahara, Sicily, India, China, Japan, and Russia, just to name a few. No matter where she wandered, Hinman saw to every detail before stepping out her front door. She meticulously planned every step of the travel route, secured accommodation at luxurious hotels (or, if there were no hotel options, then the next best thing), and planned smaller excursions along the way. Her ultimate goal for every destination was to provide an experience for her guests they would otherwise not be offered by the standard tour operators of the day.

[Unidentified woman standing on her horse's back], ca. 1926, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline Hinman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-118)

[Unidentified woman feeding a camel], 1926, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Caroline Hinman fonds (V282/III/B/PS-32)

Not all of Hinman’s trips to the Canadian Rockies were strictly on horseback; she also offered summer trips along the newly completed motor car road between Banff and Jasper. Guests stayed in the Canadian Pacific hotels and travelled in glass-domed buses and trains. So long as Hinman's trips enabled her to visit the high clean airs of the mountains and escape the hustle and bustle of city life, she was happy to inject elements of modern travel into her ramblings through the Rockies.

Caroline Hinman fell in love with the wild places of the Canadian Rockies when she first laid eyes on them. While she remained a life long resident of New Jersey, she was a stalwart advocate for the benefits of clean mountain air and the peace to be found off the beaten track.

The canadian pacific railway

The Last Spike, 1885, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canadian Pacific Railway fonds (V782/PS-13)

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) began as a key component of the Canadian Constitution of 1867. Originally consisting of 4 provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) the new country needed a railroad that would connect them all, especially when British Columbia agreed to join the confederation in 1871.

Progress on the railroad was slow throughout the 1870s and it did not see a real boost in productivity until William C. Van Horne was hired to be the new CPR General Manager. In 1882, 850km of new track was built and by November 1885 the railroad was complete.

[Map of Canada]. ca. 1930, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canadian Pacific Railway fonds (V782/PS-53)

[Untitled], ca. 1930, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Canadian Pacific Railway fonds (V782/PS-2)

The most difficult route the railroad took was through the Rocky Mountains, whose steep grades and narrow valleys were enough to make surveyor John Palliser believe the track could not be completed unless part of it was run through the United States. Some creative tunnelling and plenty of sidings through the mountains however kept the railroad entirely in Canada.

One of these sidings developed beyond just a refueling station when natural hot sulphur springs were found on the other side of the river. Van Horne, recognizing a potential market in the springs, called for the construction of a luxury hotel nearby and began an aggressive advertisement campaign to draw wealthy tourists into the mountains on the train. The federal government, also recognizing the potential of the hot water springs, borrowed a new idea from the United States and purchased the surrounding land, creating Canada’s first National Park. Banff National Park (originally called Rocky Mountain National Park), and the town of Banff, quickly flourished; overseen by the government and kept busy by the railroad, people came from all over the world to visit it.

Fraser Canon, B.C., ca. 1930, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Archives General File Collection (V8/5486/PS-8)

[Morant's Curve], 1954, Nicholas Morant, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Nicholas Morant fonds (V500/I/A5/Z/245/NA-1)

Van Horne commissioned artists to ride the train and paint the mountain scenery, and CPR surveyors remained in the area taking photographs. Many of these photographs were lantern slides, often coloured, which featured the company’s hotels throughout the west, scenic mountain vistas, and other points of interest along the line. Shown around the world as magic lantern shows or sold individually as souvenirs, these slides proved to be an amazing tool to promote not only the railroad, but also all the potential of the newly opened Canadian west to settlers. Capitalizing on the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the CPR (and government agencies such as the Department of the Interior) successfully employed lantern slides to draw people to Banff, creating a destination known around the world.

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Check out A Lover of Words and Storyteller: Jean A. Hembroff MacDonald in the January 2020 Cairn to learn more about Jean A. Hembroff MacDonald, a CPR lecturer, broadcaster, and self-proclaimed "vagabond!"

[Jean on a trail ride], n.d., Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Jean A. Hembroff MacDonald fonds (V797/I/PA-42)

mary schäffer warren

[Mary Schäffer with horse], ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/II/A/PS 1 - 151)

Mary Schäffer Warren (1861-1939) was a renowned artist, explorer, and photographer active throughout the Canadian Rockies from 1888 until her death in 1939. Originally from Pennsylvania, Mary Schäffer came from a respected Quaker family and was close friends with Mary Vaux, who first brought her to visit the Rockies, and who introduced Mary Schäffer to her first husband, Dr. Charles Schäffer.

Once married, the Schäffers continued to visit the Canadian Rockies during the summers while Charles Schäffer conducted his botanical research. Mary Schäffer, a skilled painter, assisted her husband in his work by painting specimens he found. Following Charles’ death in 1903 she completed his unfinished work and, having fallen in love with the mountains herself, continued to visit during the summers to conduct her own adventures on horseback. Her guide on these travels, William (Billy) Warren would later become her second husband and her constant companion for the rest of her life.

Arctostaphylos vua-ursi [Bearberry], ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/II/A/PS 1 - 205)

Chamaenerion angustifolium [Fireweed], ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/II/A/PS 1 - 550)

Sometime in the early 1900s Mary Schäffer Warren took up photography, possibly due in part to severe nerve pain that made it difficult for her to paint as she once had. A natural talent with the medium, she was able to continue a small amount of painting by tinting the lantern slides she took on her travels. During World War I Schäffer Warren put together a collection of lantern slides (some of which she took, a few she acquired from other photographers), coloured them, and sent them to be shown in hospitals in England. Since she was not there to give the presentations herself, she wrote a script to accompany them and called the collection “In the Heart of the Canadian Rockies with Horse and Camera.”

[Woman with fish], ca. 1910, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS 4 - 14)

[Looking for goat while baking bread], 1908, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Mary Schäffer fonds (V527/PS 1 - 72)

Schäffer Warren's lantern slides have become iconic and feature prominently in her book “Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies” (which has been republished by the Whyte Museum as "A Hunter of Peace") and also form the basis for Michale Lang’s book “An Adventurous Woman Abroad.” 

Mary Schäffer Warren passed away in 1939 at the age of 78 and is now across the street from her home Tarry-A-While in the old Banff Cemetery. She remains an iconic figure of early Banff and her passion for the wild places of the Rockies and her luminous lantern slides continue to resonate with people today.

the alpine club of canada

[Founding Meeting], 1906, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Alpine Club of Canada fonds (V14/AC/00P/77)

Formed in 1906, the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) was originally proposed as an off-shoot of the American Alpine Club which had been founded three years previously. While proposing the formation of such a club, co-founder Arthur O. Wheeler received a scathing letter from a journalist correspondent in Winnipeg from whom he was searching for support. That journalist, Elizabeth Parker, soon joined Wheeler in his endeavor to start the club and, once established, it would be totally independent of its American counterpart.

MacCarthy Summer reconaissance [Mount Logan expedition], 1924, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Alpine Club of Canada fonds (V14/AC/0P/813/PS-12)

Leaving "Trail End" [Mount Logan expedition], 1925, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Alpine Club of Canada fonds (V14/AC/0P/813/PS-72)

With support from organizations like the Canadian Pacific Railway and the YMCA, the ACC was able to acquire a space in which to hold their first meeting. The ACC was to be a national organization; Wheeler and Parker wanted it to be accessible to anyone who wished to take part, so the founding meeting of the Alpine Club of Canada was held in an accessible location. Not in the mountains, but in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1909 a clubhouse was built in Banff National Park on Sulphur Mountain, about halfway between the Upper Hot Springs and the town of Banff. This would serve the ACC as a base of operations until Parks Canada called for its demolition in the 1970s, at which point it was moved to its current location in Canmore.

After its founding, the ACC turned to guides (many of whom were from Switzerland) already familiar with the western Canadian peaks to show them the ropes. Wheeler became the Alpine Club of Canada's first president. Men and women from across the country quickly joined the Club and the organization flourished.

[ACC Clubhouse], 1922, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Alpine Club of Canada fonds (V14/AC192P/1/20)

"Turn" Camp looking S. [Mount Logan expedition], 1925, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Alpine Club of Canada fonds (V14/AC/0P/813/PS-104)

Lantern slides were useful tools for the ACC to use for marketing, promotional, and administrative reasons – the coloured slides from first ascent expeditions could have trip details written directly onto the matting paper, creating a colourful and thorough record that would appeal to club members and the public alike.

The Alpine Club of Canada continues to flourish today, maintaining backcountry huts throughout Alberta and British Columbia, encouraging people to explore those wild places and to help the club preserve them for those who come later.

George vaux x

George Vaux X (1909-1996) was the third George in his family tree often associated with the Canadian Rockies.

George Vaux Sr. VIII (1832-1915)

m. Sarah H. Morris (d. 1880)

Mary M. Vaux Walcott (1860-1940)

m. Dr. Charles D. Walcott

George Vaux Jr. IX (1863-1927)

m. Mary James Vaux

William S. Vaux Jr. (1872-1908)

George Vaux X (1909-1996)

Henry Vaux Sr (1912-?)