I have recently been working on a project to scan and catalogue BPMA’s collection of lantern slides. Lantern slides were used in magic lanterns and were the predecessors of modern slides for projectors. They were first invented in the mid 16th Century, originally using candles or oil lamps to throw the images. As time progressed brighter light sources such as limelight were discovered making the devices much more efficient at projecting.
The lantern slides were made out of two pieces of glass coated with a photographic emulsion resulting in the image appearing in-between the plates. The slides could then be hand tinted if required or left black and white.
Lantern slides came into popular use in the 19th and 20th Centuries and the BPMA’s collection of over 500 also date to this period. The Post Office used them extensively, with a variety of purposes from staff training to documenting what the organisation was doing.
A large part of the collection focuses on postal transport, and unsurprisingly horses feature in many of the earlier slides – in the form of drawings and photographic images, of either the animals or artwork of them. I have selected some of these to share with you today.
The image above shows a photograph of tickets used to hire post horses from postmasters or innkeepers. As the title states, surviving examples are rare so the record in the form of a lantern slide to document this process is highly valuable.
This next slide, shows a late 19th Century drawing of an Australian telegraph worker, distinguished by his different uniform, riding on a horse. This could possibly have been used to educate British staff of postal practices around the world.
A much more human touch in this next image shows an older postal worker with his horse or pony. The familiarity in the shot is endearing and shows a more informal side to the use of the slides.
More catalogue records complete with images will shortly be available on our online catalogue so do look out for them soon.
Laura Snowling – Volunteer