Posted 8 months ago
This exceedingly rare Magic Lantern (gadget) walking stick caught me by surprise. As a collector of early photographic apparatus and accessories, I thought I had pretty much seen everything over the years; innovative cameras, tripods, exotic lenses and shutters, image plates, powder flash, etc. ... you get the idea. And then this comes along when visiting an antique dealer at a show. The dealer, who also specializes in canes, admits this is the only example seen to date.
While magic lanterns predate photography by several hundred years, they eventually became an important part of photographic history. They are most often thought of as entertainment in the form of tabletop lanterns that project images made on glass slides.
This 34 inch walking stick (cane) has a brass handle that ingeniously transforms into a magic lantern projector. The disguised projector, as the handle, has lenses in the tapered cone, a wick (serving as the torch), a parabolic mirror to reflect the burner light, and a retractable chimney. Tripod legs and hand painted glass lantern-slides are stored below the handle inside the top portion of the cane's shaft. There is also a metal frame to hold the glass slides.
Probably considered only as a novelty, this magic lantern walking stick is a delightful addition as an accessory to my early camera collection.
Update: The projector works. I thought it was more of a novelty item and it probably is, but it does project an image. I tested by removing the cone portion of the handle (which has the optics) then positioned and illuminated a film transparency in a darkened room. (I didn't want to take the chance of damaging the original glass slides.) The transparency image resolved easily (but somewhat fuzzy due to the primitive optics) from about 3 feet and got larger (and dimmer) as I moved back. The projected image actually got pretty big at around 10 feet. Yet given that a small flame is the illuminant, as opposed to a bright flashlight, the viewing distance would probably be closer to 3 feet or so for a bright projection.
To answer a good question if something was needed to protect the delicate glass slides from the heat of a flame, I assume they would need some type of insulation to prevent damage. Maybe there was protective glass (or similar material) to shield the slides. If so, it is lost.
... gently sliding the cone forward exposes a carriage to hold the lantern slides.
… there are no scorch marks inside the lantern so it was probably never used.