Pacific Stereopticon Company Lantern Slides

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Pacific Stereopticon Company Lantern Slides


Pacific Stereopticon Co.
Lantern slides - Hand-colored - 1930-1940
Johnson, Reginald Davis, 1882-1952


Produced by the Pacific Stereopticon Company of Los Angeles, this collection of forty-five lantern slides depicts individuals involved in the restoration of Williamsburg, as well as some of the restored buildings. The slides are a mixture of black and white and color images taken by various photographers in the late 1930s. Many are copies based upon photos taken by contract professionals hired to document the appeal of the architecture and landscapes of Colonial Williamsburg. Several of the black and white slides are derived from photos taken by noted architectural photographer F.S. Lincoln, whose collection is also available for viewing on this site.

The lantern slides are significant because they document early efforts to publicize the newly opened museum. California architect Reginald Davis Johnson utilized the set to lecture to students and colleagues about the massive efforts undertaken to bring Williamsburg's historic district back to its 18th-century appearance. Noted for his contributions to the development of the Spanish-Southern California architecture of Santa Barbara, Reginald Davis Johnson resided in Pasadena and operated an architectural design studio. Some of his best known projects include the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel, the Santa Barbara Post Office, and the Harbor Hills, Rancho San Pedro, and Baldwin Hills communities in Los Angeles.

A precursor of 35mm slides, lantern slides are large format positive transparencies, usually 3.25 x 4 inches, sandwiched between two pieces of glass. Many were hand-colored. A projector allowed the slides to be viewed on a wall or screen. Instead of automatically advancing from one slide to the next, the lantern slides had to be manually placed into a slot on the projector.

Invented in 1848, lantern slides evolved from those associated with magic lanterns in the late 19th-century to the format represented in this collection. Between 1848-1870, oil lamps served as the light source for magic lantern projectors. By the 1890s, the carbon arc lamp offered a better lighting method. The introduction of electricity in the 20th-century allowed the projection of lantern slides to become common in schools and universities. Lantern slides became obsolete in the 1950s when the Kodachrome three-color process brought about the introduction of 35mm slides.


Pacific Stereopticon Co.


ca. 1935





Rights Holder

Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation