Netflix didn’t exist during the Victorian era, of course, but people living during the 1800s and early 1900s had another way to binge-watch: the “magic lantern.” According to new research, these early projectors were much more common and accessible than previously thought.
Magic lanterns — basically an early form of the slide projector — could show 3D and even moving images (much like today’s GIFs) to entertain a captive audience. But given the lanterns’ high price tag, modern historians long suspected that few but the wealthy could afford these projectors.
But new research finds that middle-class families regularly rented these machines, often for birthday parties, holidays and other social events. The research, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented Aug. 29 at the British Association for Victorian Studies 2018 Annual Conference at the University of Exeter, in England.