Manufacturers and Artists
Lantern and lantern slide production was big business in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cities in the northeast, like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, were home to the largest lantern firms in the United States. Dozens of companies focused on manufacturing optical devices, including lanterns and slides. C.W. Briggs Co., the leading American lantern slide producer until the 1930s, manufactured slides and perfected the dry plate photographic process, which made it easier and quicker for anyone to make travel slides. T.H. McAllister, who opened an optical supplies business in 1866, was another major manufacturer of slides, lanterns and screens. Eastman-Kodak even made their own lantern slides well before creating the popular carousel slide projector in the 1960s.
These manufacturers marketed some of their lanterns specifically to Masonic and fraternal groups as shown by this 1890 letter from the McIntosh Battery and Optical Company in Chicago, Illinois, to an Odd Fellows lodge. In the letter, the company touts the benefits of their new “Secret Society Stereopticon….designed especially for illustrating the Rituals of the different secret societies.”