Above is a hand-operated mechanical magic lantern slide. We might describe it as “kaleidoscopic” but it’s technically not a kaleidoscope, It’s a chromatrope. The device doesn’t contain a cylinder with mirrors that reflect an image in order to create the changing patterns. Instead, the slide is in fact 2 painted slides. As one turns the brass and wood handle, the brass rim rotates the 2 slides in opposite directions creating repeating designs.
Many companies were creating mechanical magic lantern slides it the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Judging by its condition, our chromatrope slide was probably made in the 20th Century, but it reveals no indication of its manufacturer.
Regardless of who made it, our mechanical slide is a great example of a chromatrope with a very simple, but stunning visual pattern.
See for yourself by clicking the image below! And there are more magic lantern slides on the Cotsen virtual exhibitions page…