Category Archives: Pre-cinema optical devices

Loew’s Jersey “Wonder” Theater


The Loew’s Jersey opened on September 28, 1929, as the fourth of the five Loew’s Wonder Theaters, just two weeks after the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and the Loew’s Kings in Brooklyn. All five would have opened earlier but in October 1927, the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, was released and all the Wonder theaters under construction had to be refitted for sound.

Meant to be a movie palace with “opulence unbound,” in fact the gilding throughout the lobby was actually painted aluminum and the marble columns are scagliola, a technique for producing faux marble. So much for movie magic.

The exterior has a muted terra cotta façade and standard marquee but at one time, the tower’s Saint George and the dragon was animated so that, when the clock chimed every fifteen minutes, red bulbs in the dragon’s mouth would light up and Saint George would lunge at the dragon.

According to the New York Times, “Reports of the theater opening describe an eight-foot, 150-year-old French Buhl clock, Dresden porcelain vases from the Vanderbilt mansion, bronze statues from France, crimson curtains embroidered with gold griffins and a turquoise-tiled Carrera marble fountain filled with goldfish.” Creating even more of a spectacle, guests were serenaded by live piano music or a string quartet coming from the musicians’ salon, the gallery above the entrance.”

The interior of Loew’s Jersey has appeared in several films, including Last Days of Disco and just this year Apple TV’s Dickinson, season 2, used the theater as a 19th-century opera house.


Located across from the PATH station in Journal Square, the theater was closed in 1987 and the building was slated for demolition when local residents banded together to save the historic theater. They collected 10,000 petition signatures and attended countless City Council meetings, and finally, in 1993, the city agreed to buy the theater for $325,000 and allow the newly formed Friends of the Loew’s to operate there as a nonprofit arts and entertainment center and embark on a restoration effort.

This fireplace is in the men’s room off the balcony. The Lady’s room has a separate lounge area and a third room for checking your make up.


 Read about all five wonder theaters:


Netherlandish Perspective Views


The Graphic Arts Collection is the fortunate new owner of eight 18th-century optical views from The Netherlands, meant to be viewed with a zograscope. These are early hand colored etchings on heavy wove paper without any title printed either above or below the view. Thanks to our donor Bruce Willsie, Class of 1986. Several have a hand-written note taped to the back and others can be identified online. Any additional information would be appreciated.

Can you figure out the reason for the second story hut?

These are not “hold to light” prints, there are no holes or treatment to light up the windows or stars when placed in front of a light. It is possible they were meant to be but never finished, just as the titles have not been printed.

Vue du coté du Port pres la Tour Abbaije à Middelbourg


Gezicht van de Oude Waalse-Kerk (Face of the Old Walloon Church), Amsterdam, ca. 1783.

Lectures for the Magic Lantern and Pleasant Readings for Leisure Hours by The Wizard (title copyrighted)

Lectures for the Magic Lantern and Pleasant Readings for Leisure Hours by The Wizard [cover title] (London: Millikin & Lawley, [1874?]). Graphic Arts Collection Q-000611

What do you say while presenting magic lantern slides? Do not improvise. The text has been written out in full thanks to booklets like this scarce, later edition of scripts for all types of Victorian magic lantern shows. Also included are instructions to how fast or slow to move each slide, and an indication of how to handle Dissolving View Lanterns, Comic Slipping Slides, Lever Action Slides, along with equipment such as the Nightingale Whistle and various Musical Boxes.


The author, known as The Wizard, promises that “the monotony of Evenings at Home is charmed away” through the amusement and instruction of the magic lantern. The seal of approval is made in a report that the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) ordered a magic lantern, lantern slides, and a copy of lectures from Millikin & Lawley, for his children at Sandringham. The report states that he “was much amused at the comical character of the various laughable slides” (p. 26).

Our volume is missing the complimentary blank slide that is to be used for your personal greeting, allowing you to project a unique thank you to your audience.

Ye olde London streete

Ye olde London streete ([London], 1884). Peepshow [also called a tunnel book] with 6 watercolored panels. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019 in process

Between the Cotsen Children’s Library and the Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton holds a large collection of European and American tunnel books. Here is one of our newest acquisitions.


In this example, the panels are attached to each other with cloth sides, making the whole easily foldable, like an accordion book. It offers a view of an imaginary old London street that was reconstructed at the International Health Exhibition of 1884. The street was made out of real houses, some four or five stories high and was built to give a contrast to the modern sanitary advancements. It proved to be the most visited exhibition.

The artist’s initials “G.C.S.” are struck through in pencil, followed by what we presume to be the owner’s name: Mary Dorothea. The piece is also signed at the back with the initials G.C.S. and manuscript note on the scenery, “Taken from the street in old London shown at the Health Exhibition 1884”.

In 1884 London hosted an International Health Exhibition under the patronage of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, and directed by an Executive Council. The Exhibition was held in South Kensington, on a site between the Royal Albert Hall and the newly-opened Natural History Museum, on land which is now occupied by Imperial College of Science and Technology. Four million people visited the Exhibition between 8 May and 30 October 1884 (

Here are a few more of our peepshows:
1. [Milan Cathedral peepshow]
[S.l. : s.n., 18–]. Graphic Arts Collection » 2007-0615N
2. Optique no. 12 : les Boulevards.
[Paris? : s.n., 18–]. Graphic Arts Collection » 2007-0609N
3. Optique no. 8 : le Parc de Versailles.
[Paris? : s.n., 18–]. Graphic Arts Collection » 2013-0443N
4. [Reims Cathedral peepshow]
[S.l. : s.n., 18–]. Graphic Arts Collection » 2007-1260N
5. Teleorama.
[S.l. : s.n., 18–]. Graphic Arts Collection » 2007-0688N
6. A View of the tunnel under the Thames, as it will appear when completed: the carriage ways will be circular : foot passengers will descent the shafts by stairs : dimensions of the tunnel, length fr…
[London] : Pubd. … by M. Gouyn, August. 1, 1829. Rare Books » 2010-0864N
7. Thames tunnel.
[London? : s.n., 184-?]. Rare Books » Oversize 2007-0169Q
8. A Brief account of the Thames Tunnel.
[London] : Azulay, Thames Tunnel, [1851?]. Rare Books » 2011-0054N
9. Ye Olde London streete.
[London : s.n., 1884?]. Graphic Arts Collection » N-001924
10. Grand théâtre en actions.
Paris : A. Capendu, éditeur, [189-?]. Cotsen Children’s Library » Moveables 19Q 44369
11. [Noah’s Ark] / devised by Jack S. Chambers.
[London : Werner Laurie, (not after 1950)]. Cotsen Children’s Library » Moveables 14964
12. Fünfhundert Jahre Buchdruckerkunst, 1440-1940 : über hundert Jahre Bauersche Giesserei, Frankfurt a.M., gegründet 1837.
[Frankfurt am Main : Bauersche Giesserei, 1940]. Cotsen Children’s Library » Moveables 30196 and Graphic Arts Collection » 2007-0617N
13. Tony Sarg’s treasure book : Rip Van Winkle, Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island.
[New York : B.F. Jay], c 1942. South East (CTSN) » Toys 11990

Pre-cinema optical devices

Earlier this week, we welcomed the Columbia University students in VIAR Un3413, Ben Hagari’s printmaking class “Print into Motion” to the Graphic Arts Collection. According to the syllabus, the objective of this course “is to navigate through the intersection of time with print as well as the relationship between a still and a moving image. Students will explore elements of duration, seriality, sequentiality, and storytelling.”

Here are a few moments of discovery with our collection of optical devices. Above is a Polyorama Panoptique next to a magician’s blow book.


Here the students recognize an anamorphic portrait of Jules Verne embedded in this print by István Orosz. When a cylindrical mirror is placed on the moon, shining above a fantastic landscape called Mysterious Island, the image comes together to form a realistic face.

The invention of the thaumatrope [seen above and below] is usually credited to British physician John Ayrton Paris, who used one to demonstrate persistence of vision to the Royal College of Physicians in 1824. Paris also described the device in his 1827 educational book Philosophy in Sport Made Science in Earnest, with an illustration by George Cruikshank (Graphic Arts Collection Cruik 1827.5).

A chromotrope slide for a magic lantern [animated below].

The most famous owner and operator of a camera lucida [above] was William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877), who later copyrighted paper photography. With the camera lucida and a camera obscura, he recalled with pleasure “the inimitable beauty of the pictures of nature’s painting which the glass lens of the Camera throws upon the paper in its focus—fairy pictures, creations of a moment, and destined as rapidly to fade away.” These thoughts in turn prompted Talbot to muse “how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper.” “And why should it not be possible?” —


Vues d’optique with a third layer

“Le Peintre la Nature et l’Atelier”

Thanks to the generosity of Bruce Willsie, Class of 1986, the Graphic Arts Collection has eleven new French vues d’optique mounted on wooden frames to be viewed in a polyorama panoptique. Not only are they different sizes and different views from anything currently in the collection, but several have a mysterious third layer so that when they are held up to light, or viewed in a closed box, a new print is visible in silhouette. These are called protean views.

Here are a few samples. Note the performers on stage below and the congregation at the midnight mass at the bottom.

“Salle de l’Opera à Paris”


“Taverne de l’Angle à Londres”


“La Messe de Minuit”

Stories in stereo

Unidentified photographer, The Ghost in the Stereoscope, ca. 1865. Published by the London Stereoscope and Photographic Company after a suggestion by Sir David Brewster. Two albumen prints in stereo-format, hand-tinted. Title: “Kindly suggested by Sir David Brewster, K. H. [entered at Stationers’ Hall” on verso. A dramatic view of the late Mr Stubbs haunting the new occupant of his house. The graffiti on the walls reads: “Mr Stubbs his cottage his picter” and “Mr Stubbs erd.” Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process


The Graphic Arts Collection has acquired several British stereoviews, each providing a narrative through a single 3D image. Some relate to major literary sources and others minor stories. Here are some examples:


[below] Unidentified photographer, Gambler’s Ghost, ca. 1865. Published by the London Stereoscope and Photographic Company. Two albumen prints in stereo-format, hand-tinted. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process

[Above] Alfred Silvester, Little Nell. Vide – ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ by Charles Dickens, 1870s-1880s. Two albumen prints in stereo-format. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process


[Below] Unidentified photographer, Haidee and Juan, Canto 2nd, 1870s-1880s. Two albumen prints in stereo-format, hand-tinted. Titled on small printed label pasted to verso with copyright note:  A passionate moment between Juan and the pirate’s daughter Haidée, before she dies of a broken heart and Don Juan is sold into slavery. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process

Daniel Defoe (1661?-1731), The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner: Who Lived Eight and Twenty Years Alone in an Uninhated [Sic] Island On the Coast of America, Near the Mouth of the Great River Oroonoque: Having Been Cast on Shore by Shipwreck, Wherein All the Men Perished But Himself: With an Account How He Was At Last Strangely Delivered By Pyrates Written By Himself ([London: s.n.], 1719-[1720]). RHT Oversize 18th-955

Lake Price, Robinson Crusoe and Friday, 1870s-1880s Two albumen prints, hand-tinted, in stereo-format. Title and credit on printed label pasted to verso, with Dublin art shop ‘Lesage’ label on verso. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process



Sir John Everett Millais Bt PRA (1829-96), My Second Sermon, 1864. Oil on canvas. Guildhall Art Gallery, London.


[below] After Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), Unidentified photographer. First time at Church. The Litany, no date [after 1864]. Two albumen prints in stereo-format, hand-tinted. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process

[Above] Unidentified photographer, Cinderella and her Godmother, 1870s-1880s Two albumen prints in stereo-format, hand-tinted. Graphic Arts Collection GAX in process



Le Taxiphote

The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired an early twentieth-century Taxiphote. Developed by Jules Richard (1848-1930) “Le Taxiphote” is a mechanical tabletop stereo viewer, ours having all its original cabinet drawers and parts, custom slide trays and a collection of approximately 200 glass stereo views of Paris and the French countryside.

This device is the most technically sophisticated of all the stereo-viewers Richard invented, much evolved from the hand-held stereoscopes most families had in their homes. All these devices involve two photographs taken from approximately the distance between our eyes so that when looking through the viewer, the two images merged into a single three-dimensional image. Richard’s camera for making stereograms was called a “Verascope,” patented in 1893. A few years later in 1899, he patented the first model for the viewing stereo-slides, which he called “Le Taxiphote,” sold well into the 1930s. There are two levers; one to raise the slide and view the image with both eyes and a second smaller lever to read the text on the slide caption with your right eye.

Jules Richard was the son of Félix Richard, a manufacturer of optical and measuring instruments and the nephew of Gustave Froment, a well-known manufacturer of electrical instruments.
Jules designed barometers, thermometers, chronographs, dynamometers, and other photographic devices.

“Having been personally owned and managed by Jules Richard for thirty years, in 1921 the business became a public company, with a capital of six million francs and a workforce of about 300. In 1923 Richard gave the city of Paris six million francs to found an ‘École des Apprentis Mécaniciens Précisionnistes’, to provide training for precision instrument makers and ensure the continuity of the skills which were so important to him. This college still exists. So too does the firm, at least in name, the present ‘Société JRC’ (Jules Richard Constructeurs) manufacturing precision instruments for industrial uses.” Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

Opening the top, one cassette of glass slides is loaded. Turning the side crank will lift the first slide and place it in front of the lens, with light coming through the ground glass behind. Keep turning and the next slide will move into place, and so on.

The bottom of the box is a storage space to hold our 200 glass slides, created for this viewing device specifically. The slides are on their way to Princeton and when they arrive will also be digitized for long-distance viewing.

Thanks to Rubén Gallo, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr., Professor in Language, Literature, and Civilization of Spain at Princeton University for his assistance in acquiring our Taxiphote.

Le Taxiphote Stereo-Classeur, French stereo viewer with approximately 200 glass slides, ca. 1910. Mahogany case with hinged and locked lower door opening to a compartment for glass slide storage, two brass handles on sides for carrying, rack and pinion focusing, hinged lid and two adjustable levers at left and right for focus. The front has two engraved gutta percha labels in French text under gutta percha eye pieces. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process


The Historiscope

The Historiscope: a Panorama & History of America (Springfield, Mass.: Milton Bradley & Co., [1868?]). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2018- in process

Lithographer Milton Bradley (1836-1911) marketed his first game “The Checkered Game of Life” in 1860 and went on to produce hundreds of educational toys and books. Princeton is fortunate to own several copies of the Bradley Company’s paper panorama: The Myriopticon: A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion (American Civil War). We now add a new edition of its complement: The Historiscope: A Panorama and History of America (Springfield, Mass.: Milton Bradley & Co., ca. 1868), offering a less elaborate model than Cotsen’s.

Cotsen Library, South East (CTSN) Toys 30665

The chromolithographic scroll is made up of eight conjoined strips resulting in an image measuring 14 x 221 cm ( ~7 1/3 feet long). It rolls across the printed proscenium of a paper theatre box, thanks to a winding mechanism that is cranked by hand. Ours comes with its original crank.

The Historiscope provides a rolling journey through the history of the United States of America, from its discovery by Columbus, through the War of independence and the age of the steam engine. There are twenty-five scenes, including Columbus arriving in America; the Spanish conquest; the baptism of Pocohontus; Pilgrim Fathers; early settlement; treaties with Native Americans; the battle between the English and the French; the American War of Independence; the opening of transcontinental railway celebration; the new Capitol building, Washington D.C.; cotton farming; a steam threshing machine; and several more.

For more, see “The Historiscope and the Milton Bradley Company: Art and Commerce in Nineteenth-Century Aesthetic Education” by Jennifer Lynn Peterson

Welcome to Columbia Students

Founded by an endowment from LeRoy and Janet Neiman, Columbia University’s LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies promotes printmaking through education, production and exhibition of prints. Twelve students and their instructor Ben Hagari made the trip south to visit the Graphic Arts Collection of pre-cinema and optical devices on Tuesday.

The class, Print into Motion, encourages undergraduates to “use printmaking techniques to create animation works, optical devices and projections.” The students have already begun creating their own thaumatropes and other phantasmagoria. Future projects will take inspiration from our metamorphosis cards, transformation images, and flap books. Here are a few moments from the class.


Ben Hagari is a New York-based artist, who was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. His work “dissolves the distinction between theatrical facades and backstage by creating spaces where magic, subterfuge, and poetry collide.” Hagari’s solo and group exhibitions include Afterwards, Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2012); Invert, Rosenfeld Gallery, Tel Aviv (2011); The Museum Presents Itself: Israeli, Art from the Museum Collection, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014); and in December 2017, 24:7 in New York City’s Time Square.