Film and Lantern Slides

Advocates of Humane Education in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries used a range of visual technologies to help spread the word about kindness and compassion towards all animals. Lantern slides and film were especially attractive in this respect because of the sense of novelty and the social dynamic that accompanied these forms of media during this era.

Lantern slides were made from glass and were placed in a projector one at a time. While a range of different projector options existed during this era, the Spencer Delineascope model seemed to be especially favoured by groups such as the American Humane Education Society. Lantern slides were typically hand-coloured for extra visual effect. These slides were very fragile and many of the surviving slides today have cracks across their glass surface.

The slides were often designed to be accompanied by a story or narrative that was read out loud during the projection. Lantern slide shows were part performance, part spectacle, and, in the case of animal advocacy groups, underscored by messages of Humane Education. For instance, in 1898 the Toronto Humane Society & The Canadian Department of Agriculture commissioned a Toronto-based author named Annie G. Savigny to produce an illustrated lecture on the theme of kindness to animals. The result was Dick Niven and his Horse Nobby: Lantern Slide Lecture Teaching Kindness to Animals, a tale that was meant to be accompanied by 24 lantern slides. The slides that would have originally accompanied the reading of this story appear to have been lost, however, the text that survives gives us a glimpse in to what kinds of images would have been projected while the story of Dick Niven and his horse Nobby was read aloud.

These lantern slide shows were held in schools, churches, and public halls. Some advocacy groups were especially creative with how they staged these events. For example, the New York-based Animal Protective League held many of their illustrated lectures in “the horses’s home–the stable,” in order to “more vividly to impress the spectators.” In another instance, the Maryland Anti-Vivisection Society put on nightly lantern slide shows at Asbury Park during the summer of 1911.

Moving pictures, or film, was another important advocacy tool in the pursuit of Humane Education. The novelty of cinema during this era ensured that screenings of films like “Black Beauty” or “The Bell of Atri” attracted good crowds.

Viewing the Objects in This Section

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Lantern Slide, early 20th C. Collection of MSPCA Angell.

Lantern Slide advertising 1921 film version of Black Beauty. Collection of MSPCA Angell.

Ad for “The Bell of Atri” in April 1927 issue of Our Dumb Animals. Collection of MSPCA Angell

Advertisement for On Behalf of Animals in the October 1933 issue of Our Dumb Animals.


  1. Can you imagine ANY Department of Agriculture today teaming up with an animal protection group to share a ‘kindness to animals’ message?! Instead we have Ag-Gag laws; society is definitely going downhill.

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