New York World’s Fair 1939 – in captivating Kodachrome

New York World’s Fair 1939 – in captivating Kodachrome

These 35mm Kodachrome slides were taken by an unknown skilled amateur, at the New York World’s Fair. They are sharp, in good condition, and mounted in period glass mounts. Each one is unique, Kodachrome not being intended for making duplicates or amateur prints, and so far as we know have never been published.

Kodachrome was a brand name for a colour reversal film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935. It was one of the first successful colour materials and was used for both cinematography and still photography. Because of the growth and popularity of alternative photographic materials, its complex processing requirements and the widespread transition to digital photography, Kodachrome lost its market share. Its manufacturing was discontinued in 2009 and its processing ended in December 2010.

The 1939–40 New York World’s Fair, which covered the 1,216 acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was the second largest American world’s fair of all time.


This night shot shows the Ford company’s Road of Tomorrow pavilion. The fair was divided into differently themed zones, such as the Transportation Zone, the Communications and Business Systems Zone, the Food Zone, the Government Zone, and so forth.

Virtually every structure erected on the fairgrounds was extraordinary, and many of them were experimental in many ways. Architects were encouraged by their corporate or government sponsors to be creative, energetic and innovative. Novel building designs, materials and furnishings were the norm.

ny002 copy

ny012 copy

Outdoor public lighting was at the time of a very limited and pedestrian nature, perhaps consisting of simple incandescent pole lamps in a city and nothing in the country. Electrification was still very new and had not reached everywhere in the US. The fair was the first public demonstration of several lighting technologies that would become common in future decades. These ‘night shot’ slides show the state-of-the art lighting, (with a brilliant blue being one of the Fair’s official colours).

ny003 copy[sold]

In the slide of the American Jubilee show the photographer has given a time exposure to ensure that the lights reproduce well.This has the effect of blurring the people walking past – all except one static couple in the distance, captured as they gaze in wonder at the display.

ny007 copy
ny008 copy[sold]

The Billy Rose Aquacade was a spectacular musical and water extravaganza foreshadowing the form of many popular Hollywood musicals in the ensuing years. The show was presented in a special amphitheater seating 10,000 people and included an orchestra to accompany the spectacular synchronized swimming performance. It featured Johnny Weismuller and Eleanor Holm, two of the most celebrated swimmers of the era, and dazzled fairgoers with its lighting and cascades and curtains of water, pumped in waterfalls at 8000 gallons a minute.

ny006 copy[sold]

John Hix’s “Strange as It Seems” appeared as a syndicated cartoon feature in 1928. In its heyday, it was reported that the comic strip was syndicated in over 1,300 newspapers and became a familiar brand to millions around the globe for its comic strips, books, radio shows and film shorts. In 1939, the Hix brothers outmaneuvered Ripley’s ‘Believe it Or Not!) for an exhibit at the New York World’s Fair.

The lower slide shows the “Frozen Alive Girls” frontage, with the block of “ice” in which the girls were to be entombed, naked, being clearly visible as the barker ‘tells the tale’. They’re clearly not too thrilled at the prospect.

ny005 copy

A rare interior colour shot of the British Empire pavilion.

(More slides to be added soon.) Price of slides and further details on application.


ny010 copy British Pavilion

ny013 copy[sold]

Death of Cromwell – hand painted magic lantern slide


identifier: 2014095 DEATH OF CROMWELL [SOLD]

Death of Cromwell. Magic lantern slide. Hand-painted, anonymous artist. Title hand-written on paper label on bottom edge of binding.

This scene of Oliver Cromwell’s death – from urinary tract problems, apparently – is from an unknown series. Buried in Westminster Abbey, when Royalists returned to power he was dug up, his remains hung in chains, and beheaded. Just to make sure.

Thousands upon thousands of so-called “hand painted” lantern slides are sold on ebay each year. Some are indeed fully hand-painted, and these fall mostly into three categories: 1) early caricatures, stories etc painted on “long slides”. 2) simple cartoonish slides showing a visual joke, often with mechanical movement (e.g. “slipper” slides). 3) very fine hand-painted scenes produced by Carpenter and Westley and a few similar companies. Most of these types are mounted in wood frames.

Other slides described as ”hand-painted” are mostly either cheap chromolithographic slides (i.e. “transfers”), or slides of drawings produced by printed or photographic outlines in black, which are then coloured in by hand.

Here’s an unusual exception: a standard 3.25 x 3.25-inch slide, not framed in wood, that’s fully hand painted. An exquisite little miniature on glass, from c.1890. The paints used would have been a type of coloured varnish. Painting on glass to this standard is a lost art.

Very good condition.

Price: SOLD

Making matches, c.1900


As I struck a Swan Vesta match to light a bunch of sparklers for this year’s Guy Fawkes celebrations it occurred to me that we hardly ever use matches these days. Fewer open fires, cheap petrol lighters for lighting cigarettes (and less smoking), no paraffin stoves. Those little wooden splints were once a ubiquitous part of everyday life, and produced in huge numbers – millions per hour from one factory. Famously, the Match Girls’ Strike of 1888, ‘caused by the poor working conditions in the match factory, including fourteen-hour work days, poor pay, excessive fines and the severe health complications of working with white phosphorus, such as phossy jaw…’ [Wikipedia] invigorated the campaign against the use of white phosphorous, which was eventually made illegal. I wonder in what context these slides were most often shown?

matches1[click on picture to enlarge]

Matchmaking. Fifteen glass 3.25inch x 3.25inch photographic magic lantern slides, showing the industrial process of making matches and matchboxes. Newton & Co, Covent Garden, London. These slides were made c.1912, from photographs taken at that time or a few years earlier.




I bought these slides around 30 years ago, and I have not seen another example of any of them since. They comprise an extraordinary record of a German match-making factory around 1900, showing the various areas where different parts of the processes were carried out. The printed text commentary states that “Red phosphorous is now greatly used instead of the white kind, and is much freer from dangerous fumes.” The type of phosphorous used by this particular factory is not stated. When we examine these images the dangers of exposed machinery make us wince, but they were of course universal at this time.




This is evidently the same set that was advertised by York & Son, with a reading included in the booklet Glassware [and other titles. n.d.]. A copy of the reading has survived, and is listed on the Lucerna website, which can be accessed by members of the Magic Lantern Society (UK). Non-members can contact database editor Richard Crangle for details of how to obtain the reading.




This set comprises 15 of the original 19 slides. The fifteen slides present are:

1. Slicing into layers

2. Cutting into splints

3. Cutting up remnants into splints

4. Sorting the splints

5. Piling the splints in uniform heaps

6. Putting the splits into dipping-frames

7. Paraffining and sulphuring

10. Cutting chipwood for match-boxes

11. Making the sides of the boxes without the bottoms

13. Mechanical manufacture of the drawers or insides

14. Mechanical Manufacture of cover or envelope of drawer

15. Sanding the sides of the boxes

16. Laying the coat of antimony on the box and drying it

17. Box-drying apparatus, &c

18. Boxing the matches

Numbers and titles are written in manuscript in white ink on the black paper masks, but are in some cases illegible.

A rare set. I do not know of another. The images above this point have been cropped to show details. Uncropped pictures of each slide are shown below.

Condition: Generally very good. No cracked glasses apart from one small corner crack to one slide, outside of the image area. Browning of image edges in some cases. Some passe-partout edging paper has been replaced, some is missing.

Price: £280 plus postage.      Enquiries:

Uncropped slide images (in no special order):


















The suffragette and the policemen

Magic lantern slide, Suffragette and policemen, c.1908-1914. English, publisher: Newton & Company, 72 Wigmore Street, London, W. Cinematographer [image taken from 35mm film] not known. Size: 3.25 x 3.25 inches.

When I found this glass slide, the image looked vaguely familiar. Research uncovered what I thought was the same photograph, but it was very slightly different – taken a fraction of a second later. Then it occurred to me that both pictures were printed from a strip of motion picture film. The footage is here (at 1:33).

I’ve not been able to identify the suffragette, but hundreds were arrested in the years immediately before the First World War. The actual slide dates from the period.

Those who lectured on the women’s suffrage movement, in both Britain and the USA, are known to have often used lantern slides – for example:

‘In February 1910 Bertha Mason (prominent activist) gave, as a lecture to the Bath NUWSS society, an account, accompanied by lantern slides, of the forerunners of the contemporary suffrage movement. She also gave this “limelight lecture”, which was described as “Pictures of unique interest to the forerunners of the movement, the advance guard, the parliamentary champions, the present day workers, election incidents”, to members of the Croydon branch of the NUWSS and to the Mansfield Suffrage Society. It was eventually published in book form in 1912…’ [The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928, by Elizabeth Crawford]

The particular address for Newton & Co. appears to have been first used in 1912, so this slide was most likely produced c.1912-14.

Slides of the Suffrage movement are difficult to find today. Very good condition.

Price: £25.00 plus postage


A giant (so it seems) grasshopper (cricket?) waits in the grass, a crisp essay in vivid greens.

A society couple stand whispering beneath the trees in the moonlight, while somewhere nearby, perhaps, the band plays on.

A man in a dapper suit sits with his coffee and reflects. A single thin line of smoke curls from his cigarette. Is this Rick, long after the customers have gone home, thinking of Ilsa and the sacrifice he must make tomorrow?

What are the origins of these images? Just another day’s work for some anonymous artist trying to (literally) scrape a living?




[click to enlarge]

Three lantern slides in Art Deco style. Size: approx 3.25 x 4 inches. I have given these the titles:

1. Grasshopper (hand coloured).

2. A couple in the monlight (black-and-white).

3. The man in the window (hand coloured).

These striking images were intended for projecting in British cinemas during the interval, usually while the organist played. (These are 3.25 x 4 inches, a common size used in cinemas.) Lantern slides in cinemas were mostly shown to advertise commercial products or forthcoming films, but these examples seem to be much less common ‘mood’ slides. They were produced by the Morgan’s Projected Publicity method; a semi-opaque ‘paint’ covered the glass, and when dry was scratched through. The precision of the scratched lines suggests the use of a stencil or pantograph. The result was then hand-coloured, when required. Two of these examples include, on an internal label, the patent number 216349, which relates to this technique. A new printout of the patent will be included.





Very scarce. The chances of finding other examples showing the same images are very slim.

Condition: Very good. The external paper edge binding strips are somewhat ragged, with some pieces missing.

Price: £55.00 plus postage.

Dance of Ghosts and Death – magic lantern slide


Identifier: 2014091. Dance of Ghosts and Death – magic lantern slide. [SOLD]


dancedeathslide4[click to enlarge]

Three images painted on glass, mounted in a period wooden lantern slide frame having three apertures. The maker has modified the wooden circles to avoid cropping the painted images. The original title: “DANCE OF GHOSTS AND DEATH” is written in ink on the top edge of the wooden mount. On one side of the frame is written what appears to be 6/- [six shillings] crossed out, and 5/- [five shillings] in pencil. Size: 295 x 99 mm.


Skeletons and death figures were popular subjects for the phantasmagoria lantern shows of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The tradition goes back even earlier – a drawing of a skeleton removing its own head is a lantern slide design by Chrsitaan Huygens dating from 1659. The slide offered here probably dates from c.1830-1850, and is jovial rather than threatening or doom laden. Despite the title suggesting that Death (the skeleton) is dancing with ghosts, the nightshirted character appears to me to be alive and kicking. Unlike early engravings of the Dance of Death where the mortals are depicted as stiff and unaccommodating, the gentleman in this version readily joins in with the dance.




This is the only known example of this subject, and the images from this slide were used as an illustration in Mervyn Heard’s book Phantasmagoria: The Secret Life of the Magic Lantern (The Projection Box, 2006).

A unique item.

Condition: good, with minor scratches, some areas of black background paint missing.

Price: [SOLD]

Celluloid, and a scattering of flowers….

identifier: 20140906 CELLULOID NOTEBOOK


Victorian mourning notebook with a celluloid cover panel. Size: 50 x 80mm.

This miniature notebook has a front panel of embossed celluloid, a material used from the 1870s to provide a material for mass production by moulding, in this case for an item that represented carved ivory. Evidently a mourning item, it contains a name on the inside cover, names of two people on the first page and then … it’s blank. From the dates given, this item is from the late 1870s or 1880s.

For the story of the introduction of celluloid – best known as the physical medium on which motion pictures were, until recent years, made and shown – I would encourage you to read the informative article: ‘Exploding Teeth, Unbreakable Sheets and Continuous Casting: Nitrocellulose from Gun-cotton to Early Cinema’ by Deac Rossell, which is available for free download here.

‘The company that finally found commercial success with the new material was founded in 1870 by John Wesley Hyatt and his brother Isaiah Smith Hyatt in Albany, New York. They called their formable plastic “celluloid”, and incorporated as the Albany Dental Plate Company. Hyatt used a mixture of pyroxyline and camphor in his celluloid, which he saw as a substitute for the hard rubber used by dentists in the false teeth, bridges, and other dental wares of the day. The company struggled until Hyatt, trained as a printer, began to form his teeth (and billiard balls, combs, and other trinkets) under heat and pressure, which created a material that was stable and hard in nearly any shape. Hyatt’s early products used no fillers, and only the “least quantity” of colouring pigments; therefore they were nearly pure gun-cotton, and his billiard balls burned rapidly if touched by a lighted cigar. Hyatt later wrote that “occasionally the violent contact of the balls would produce a mild explosion like a percussion guncap. We had a letter from a billiard saloon proprietor in Colorado, mentioning this fact and saying that he did not care so much about it but that instantly every man in the room pulled a gun.”
… John Wesley Hyatt received 61 patents between 1869 and 1891 for various celluloid-related processes, and by 1880 his company had issued licenses to almost two dozen firms engaged in the manufacture of celluloid dental plates, harness trimmings, knife and cutler handles, emery wheels, brushes, shirt cuffs and collars, shoes, piano keys, and a vast range of other items.’ [Extract]




The notebook comprises about 60 graph-squared pages with gilded edges, that are mostly blank. Endpapers are white moire-pattern. The boards are covered with green-brown, coated paper. The accompanying pencil is topped with ivory or bone.


The image shows a small boat with a swan figurehead, carrying five children. One is leaning over the side, and laying a floral wreath on the water. Another plays a flute as the ceremony is performed. I imagine that this was taken or adapted from an engraving or painting, but it’s a difficult subject to research. If you know the original subject, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Condition: Very good. Some wear to the paper board covers.

Price: £35.00 plus postage

X-rays prove Van Gogh forgeries that shock the art world, a Matisse nude causes a row, Spike Milligan intervenes over free television licenses for OAPs and a stolen ‘James Bond’ Goya, and a National Gallery cleaning scandal leads to an offer of resignation.


This is a complicated post, so pay attention please.

Manuel de la conservation et de la restauration des peintures. Office International des musées. Publications de l’institute International de Cooperation Intellectuelle
2, Rue de Montpensier, Paris. 1939. 310pp, b/w illustrations.

London, April 1939.
To Philip Hendy from his ever grateful Helmut R.

In April 1939 the German restorer of paintings Helmut Ruhemann (1891-1973) dedicated a copy of a book that he’d been involved with, a manual on the restoration of paintings, to Philip Hendy, then Director of Leeds City Art Gallery. This copy of the manual is being offered here, together with a set of carbon typescripts relating to a forgery case, and a set of printed sheets which include reports of a famous art theft, marked up for editing into a continuous narrative about the theft. Together, these three items comprise an interesting record of major events in the professional life of Sir Philip Hendy, Director of the National Gallery, London, 1946-1967.

Hendy, Philip [Anstiss], Sir (1900-1980)
Hendy attended Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1923 in modern history. That year, with no training in art, he was appointed assistant to the keeper (curator) of the Wallace Collection, assigned to research objects for the catalogue. His work there and articles in the Burlington Magazine so impressed officers of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston that Hendy was contracted to live in Italy for three years, to research the Gardner catalogue. In 1930 he was appointed curator of paintings for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. [adapted from].

At this time, the notorious Wacker forgeries case was coming to a head.
Otto Wacker (1898–1970) was a German art dealer who became infamous for commissioning and selling forgeries of paintings by Vincent van Gogh; probably the work of his brother, the painter and restorer Leonhard Wacker. Otto Wacker managed to convince prominent Van Gogh experts that the paintings he was selling were genuine. The experts accepted his tall tale that a Russian had bought the paintings, and transferred them to Switzerland illegally. Experts understood the need for this Russian to remain anonymous in order to protect relatives who still lived in the Soviet Union. Wacker’s paintings were to be exhibited in January 1928 in Berlin, in an exhibition organized to coincide with the publication of de la Faille’s standard catalogue of Van Gogh’s work. When Wacker delivered the last four paintings, the managers of the exhibition recognized them as fakes. Further investigation revealed 33 suspect paintings, all of them supplied by Wacker. Galleries that had sold his paintings asked their customers to return them. During the trial in 1932, experts did not come to full agreement on which paintings were authentic (and the argument was to continue in some circles for years afterwards). However, it was found that pigments used in the paintings were different from those Van Gogh had used. Art restorer Kurt Wehlte showed with X-rays that the painting techniques were different (although he used a painting that would be declared a forgery in the 1970s). Later it was found that the paintings were not on French canvases. Wacker was charged with fraud, and after an appeal, sentenced to 19 months in prison and a heavy fine. [adapted from Wikipedia]

Perhaps Hendy’s interest was first whetted by a review of the Van Gogh Catalogue Raisonne, published in the June 1928 issue of The Burlington Magazine (Number 303 – Volume 52), in which the young curator had an article on another subject. The typescript carbon that’s being offered here is Hendy’s later account of the affair, Technical Testing Methods and Van Gogh Falsifications. Retrospections on the Wacker case, detailing his own observations as the result of extensive examinations of many Van Gogh paintings that were universally accepted as genuine, and the Wacker canvases. The date of the typescript is not known. To continue with our Hendy chronology:

At Boston, all was not well. Hendy’s purchase of Matisse’s nude Carmelina (1903) in 1933 – which at the time must have been a rather challenging painting for many – brought about a major dispute with the conservative Trustees and Hendy resigned. He returned to Britain and in 1934 accepted the director position at the Leeds City Art Gallery, supervising the evacuation of the collection to Temple Newsam House during World War II. In 1946, Sir Kenneth Clark resigned as director of the National Gallery and Hendy succeeded him. When the Gallery’s paintings were returned from their safe-storage after the War, he ordered many cleaned – much of it done by Helmut Ruhemann, (1891-1973). It was Ruhemann who, in 1939, had presented Hendy with a copy of the French manual on painting restoration, (now part of this lot). Trouble was brewing again. Accusations of over-cleaning a number of paintings were made by the artist Sir Gerald Kelly in The Times, and the Trustees set up the Weaver Committee to investigate. Hendy was cleared of wrong-doing. But the spotlight would fall on him once again, a dozen years later. [informed by material on Wikipedia]

In 1961 Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington was stolen from the Gallery just weeks after it had been acquired – the thief or thieves entered and left through a window in the Gents – and Hendy again had to justify his administration. Sandy Nairne outlines what happened next. The culprit explained, ‘My sole object in all this was to set up a charity to buy television licenses for old and poor people who seem to be neglected in an affluent society.’ In February 1962 the Sunday Telegraph carried a piece reporting that the theft was to do with controversial restoration policies at the gallery. In December 1963 the New Statesman reported, ‘Spike Milligan would like to meet those who have the missing Goya … He sympathises with them and would like to attempt to meet them with a view to raising money independently … to be donated to a charity of their choosing.’ The perpetrator, disabled pensioner Kempton Bunton who had been fined three times for tv licence evasion, later encouraged National Gallery Chairman, Lord Robbins, to ‘assert thyself and get the damn thing on view again. I am offering three pennyworth of old Spanish firewood, in exchange for £140,000 of human happiness.’ [adapted from: How Goya’s Duke of Wellington was stolen]. The theft entered popular culture, referenced in the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No where it was on display in Dr. Julius No’s lair. The Daily Mirror got involved in attempts to have it returned, but eventually Bunton sent the painting back (via a ‘long-haired teddy-boy lolling in Birmingham Station’) and then, certain that an accomplice was about to turn him in for the reward, gave himself up and got a three-month sentence.

The acquisition, theft, and return of the painting are dealt with in detail in the pages extracted from official published reports of The National Gallery, January 1960-May 1962; and January 1965-December 1966, part of the lot offered here.

Hendy retired from the National Gallery in 1967. His Wikipedia page concludes: ‘Hendy’s generation of museum officials was the last one in Britain where amateurs, well-educated but self-taught in art history could immediately move into museum curation. His natural eye led him to many astute observations and a few prejudices (he disliked the Pre-Raphaelites).’

It seems there’s currently a PhD student working on the subject of Sir Philip.

‘Sir Philip Hendy (1900-1980) director and scholar in Leeds and London 1934-1967: the acquisition and display of art and curatorial practices in ages of austerity.University of Leeds/The National Gallery, London. This AHRC-funded PhD studentship will research the curatorial practices of Sir Philip Hendy (1900-1980), Director of The National Gallery (1946-67) after holding the Directorship of Leeds Museums & Galleries (1934-46). An investigation of Hendy as museum-director is an opportunity for an enhanced understanding of the history of two key institutions and their role in the public display and interpretation of artworks as well as an assessment of the changing relationships between regional and national art museums. The focus on Hendy will provide an important case study for the history of curatorship and its political, social and cultural contexts, further illuminating the significance of the changing methods and practices of museum curatorship in times of economic, political and social crisis.’

The items offered here were auctioned at Batemans in January 2013, where the provenance was given as ‘from the Estate of the late Carlo Curley’ (an internationally renowned organist, who died in 2012).

Lot of three items:

Manuel de la conservation et de la restauration des peintures. Office International des musées. Publications de l’institute International de Cooperation Intellectuelle
2, Rue de Montpensier, Paris. 1939. 310pp, b/w illustrations. Hard covers, half-bound in cloth and paper. Size: 186 x 231mm. Quite scarce. Condition: generally good. Minor paint marks on one page. Some wear and age yellowing to cover and spine, spine covering weak at head and bottom. The free-endpapers are tanned/foxed.


Article, typescript carbon or reprographic copy:
Technical Testing methods and Van Gogh Falsifications. Retrospections on the Wacker case. [n.d.] 16 single-sided pages, thin paper. Size: 206 x 292mm. Condition: some fraying to paper edges, folds, first page of text somewhat faded but easily readable. Some rust marks from paper clips. I can find no record of any article about this subject, written by Philip Hendy, being published. This is perhaps the only copy of an interesting article detailing his observations about the case.

Printed report:
Return of Goya’s Duke of Wellington. 16 leaves, various paginations, comprising printed reports on Theft of Goya’s ‘Duke of Wellington’, and Return of Goya’s ‘Duke of Wellington’, extracted from official published reports of The National Gallery, January 1960-May 1962; and January 1965-December 1966. Size: 190 x 255mm. A label with the address of the author’s agent Joyce Weiner Associates pasted on the lower margin. The pages include material (reports) not related to the Goya painting, and these have been struck through in ink. Clearly, the text that remains was intended as a guide for the Goya story to be reprinted as a complete article. I haven’t been able to trace any publication details for such an article but it’s possible that it was published. Condition: paper is generally good, with blue ink numbering, ink deletions, and other ink markings. Staple now removed.

Even without its fascinating provenance, the Manuel de la conservation would be of interest to anyone involved in museum studies, art restoration and conservation, the history of museum collecting, or the development of x-ray technology. The book illustrates examples of paintings that have been cleaned; the subject that would get Hendy into hot water many years later.  Just at the time Europe’s top specialists were combining their efforts to research and publish material intended to help protect our visual heritage, a War was about to start that would threaten the very existence of the paintings in their care. The other two items make very absorbing reading, illuminating major aspects of international museum and art gallery culture in the 20th century.

Price: SOLD

Scroll down for more pictures and further items


Bad Day Blotter

identifier: 20140905 BAD DAY BLOTTER     SOLD

The Strange & Wonderful at NeverSeen

Bad Day Blotter


I was tempted to title this piece “Mother told me there’d be days like this….” Or perhaps, “It’s safer by aeroplane.” It’s the front cover of a 1928/29 blotter, printed in Germany for the Calendar Manufacturing Co., Bombay.

Some inking of the pink blotting paper, ink marks on back. The image is in very good condition, with just very light marks visible on close examination, plus some small light patches in the sky area (see photo). Where would you find another one?

The ideal gift for the insurance agent who has everything.

Price: SOLD.



The Kinora: a lost world flickers into life

It wasn’t always a foregone conclusion that films would be seen in cinemas. At first, there weren’t any such places – village halls, theatres, fairgrounds were the venues for ‘living picture’ shows. Short movies were also shown in arcades, first with Edison’s peepshow kinetoscope film machine, and then with the flip-card mutoscope. But it was also a possibility that the big demand would be for motion pictures in the home, and it was a miniature version of the mutoscope that took most of this early market, which flourished in France and Britain, especially, before the First World War. The Kinora featured of the technical designs of the American inventor Herman Casler, developed into a miniature clockwork machine by the Lumière Brothers in France, in 1896. It was marketed a few years later by Gaumont in France, and then hand-cranked versions appeared in England during the early years of the 20th century. Viewers could be purchased, and Kinora reels of professional productions – printed from 35mm film – rented. There were even studios that specialized in taking one’s Kinora portrait – for a price more than twice that of many workers’ weekly take-home pay. Around 1908 in England a home camera was added to the system, but seems to have been technically unreliable and was very expensive. I’ve always been fascinated by the Kinora, I think mainly because of the extremely efficient use of the viewing machine’s minimal technology to produce a very effective moving picture. A scene or face from a lost time is seen though the lens, the crank is turned, and the frozen past gradually flickers into life again, in a way that somehow seems different from just watching an old movie on a screen. Over the years I’ve given talks about the system to the Royal Photographic Society, at the National Portrait Gallery (London), and to the Magic Lantern Society. In the 1990s my partnership The Projection Box published Barry Anthony’s booklet, Kinora: Motion Pictures for the Home 1896-1914, and later a facsimile of the original Kinora Reels catalogue, taken from the only known original. A new edition, combining both booklets, is available from Blurb.


I’ve owned this Kinora viewer by Kinora Ltd, London for thirty years, and it’s now time to find it a new home. This example, from c.1906-1908, is in mahogany.  Condition is very good, with just a small piece of wood missing (as per photo), at the bottom of the hood.

With the viewer is the Kinora reel No.117: Portrait, woman eating apple. (Title in ink on the box: LADY WITH APPLE). The reel is in good condition, and works well. Evidently a studio set-up. It was necessary to give the sitter something to do. Gentlemen usually smoked, ladies removed their hats or blew kisses. This lady (probably an actress) consumes the fruit most enthusiastically.

Kinora viewer and this reel: [SOLD].

References: Barry Anthony, ‘Shadows of Early Films’, Sight & Sound Summer 1990

Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise: A History of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (Flicks Books, 1996)

Stephen Herbert, ‘Animated Portraits’ History of Photography Vol.13 No.1 1989

________‘Kinora Living Pictures’ Amateur Cinematography Papers No.6, 1984

________‘Kinora Living Pictures’, Photo Historian No.95, Winter 1991

Henry V. Hopwood, Living Pictures Their History, Photo-Production and Practical Working (Optician and Photographic Trades Review, 1899)