Among the little known images housed in the San Diego Historical Society collection rest nearly 3000 lantern slides. These were the predecessors to the 35 mm color slide. They are nearly inaccessible for several reasons. Although safely stored in small archival envelopes, searching among them is difficult. Since they are positive transparencies, no simple photographic method will deliver paper prints. Finally, there is no descriptive catalog.
The images were mainly the product of commercial photographers who created slides themselves or sold them worldwide to commercial manufacturers. The subject material was carefully selected for wide appeal and aesthetic composition. Each slide started as a black and white positive image on a glass base. Most were then hand tinted with pleasing durable colors. They were viewable by projection on a screen much as color slides are today. Following the creation of Kodachrome transparencies in the mid nineteen thirties however, the lanternslide disappeared from general use.
Because the emulsions were applied to a glass base then covered with an additional glass, they have survived almost a century of use and storage, immune to many of the difficulties encountered by flexible film. Some of the glass suffered cracks, most show some fungus spots, and emulsion silvering is visible at the edges of the slides.
Prints can be ordered from the SDHC photographic archives.
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