By Rob Lewis

On this web page I take a look at collecting glass coming attraction slides. Early glass slides consisted of two pieces of glass: one pane containing a hand-painted image and the second pane placed over the image for protection. They were projected via a MAGIC LANTERN projector.

During the 1900’s films ran on average one or two reels (a reel being approx 10 minutes). Unlike later years where they would have more than one projector and swiftly changed between the two, in those days there would be just one film projector so there would be a pause in the show.

Some theatres would have sing-a-longs while the projectionist changed reels in the early days with a Magic Lantern slide show. Later in the 1900’s they would show a slide featuring a coming attraction. The Laurel and Hardy slides that I have seen measure 3.25” by 4”, and they are held together with pieces of black tape on the edges of the two panes.

Laurel and Hardy Glass Slides

 Here is a selection of early glass slides from their silent films; these would have been held together with black tape.

The slides would normally have a blank area along the bottom, this is where the cinema would write in by hand the show times and the day the film started. Slides held together with the black tape carried on right up to the 1930’s when they were replaced by a second type of slide consisting of two panes slightly smaller glass, which were held together by two pieces of light brown cardboard stapled together. The cardboard versions continued to be used right up until the 1950’s.

Sons of the Desert Glass Slide

 Here are two examples of later L&H slides in the cardboard mounts, not all the info on the borders.

Of those ‘Laurel & Hardy’ slides still exist are considered highly collectible and do turn up from time to time at auctions.

I should point out that there was another size used mainly in very large theatres that used the Brenograph projection system which was technically similar to Lantern format, but used a much larger 4" x 5" - 102 mm x 127 mm size glass slide.

On the later card mounted slides the colour image often duplicated the design of the 11" by 14" title lobby card of the feature. Sometimes the design duplicates the graphics of one of the two 22" by 28" half-sheet posters.

Well, why are they so hard to find you may ask?  The slides were often advertised in the press book that went out ahead of the films screening. The theatre manager would then buy or lease the slide along with a whole host of other publicity material (lobby cards, posters, etc.). They were never distributed anywhere else, and certainly would not have been of interest to others.

The slides were produced to be displayed in movie theatres for a week or two, before the advertised feature was released. Once the film opened, there was no use for the slide. The majority of slides were probably discarded shortly after the film played. Perhaps some were stuffed in a drawer or cabinet and discarded five, ten, twenty, or more years later. They were not regarded as collectibles until the 1970s. If they were not discarded, they would have had to survive for sixty, seventy, eighty, or more years. Another reason for the rarity of glass slides is their fragility. They are easily damaged. Although slide cabinets existed, at least from the 1950s, most theatre operators would not have had them. The condition of the cardboard frames, and black tape bindings, is not critical to the desirability of glass slides to collectors. But the condition of the glass itself is of paramount importance. Glass slides were awkward to store, and could be easily chipped, cracked, or shattered. Once the slide is damaged, much of its value is lost.

I personally like the colourful artwork on these ‘Laurel & Hardy’ slides and could be projected on walls or screens with vintage projectors, as well as projectors currently available. Some people have made illuminated display cases for their slides.

How much do the sell for?  The HABEUS CORPUS (illustrated) slide went for over $137 (£84) This DEVILS BROTHER slide sold for $197.50 (£121).

Laurel and Hardy The Devils Brother

But they can reach very high prices, such as this slide for 1931 comedy feature, PARDON US. It sold for $515.99 (£316).

Pardon Us Glass Slide

DESCRIPTION: The artwork was likely designed by the renowned, AL HIRSCHFELD. The glass slide is unsigned, but Hirschfeld did many movie and theatre designs.

I hope you have enjoyed this little look back in time at cinema history.


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