‘THE SUFFRAGETTES’ RUSE & HOW BOBBY PEELER FOILED THEM’ complete set of ten magic lantern slides, drawn and hand-painted on glass to form a storyboard, images credited on final slide to ‘The Graphic’. [n.p. but London, and ascribed in Lucerna to York & Son, before 1907.]
1907. Boxed set, complete; comprising 10 glass passepartout slides 81 x 81 x 3mm, images drawn and delicately hand-painted, with thin black paper edging, each with thin printed title label along upper margin, with small round numbering label in upper right corner (lacking 6 due to previous break in glass and subsequent repair), with further printed numbering label adhered along lower right edge, indicating place in larger company series; small break in upper corner of verso of slide 1, slide 6 with small fracture across top right corner repaired with edging paper, slide 8 with superficial crack (though no break in glass), two edges of slide 4 lacking the paper edging, with further edgewear in places; housed within small later ‘makeshift’ card box, edges of base with prominent archival tape repairs, lid missing left edge, and with archival tape label on upper surface, lettered in manuscript, edges of lid quite worn. An extremely scarce set of magic lantern slides highlighting the women’s rights movement and votes for women, albeit from the anti-suffrage perspective, and satirising the struggle. The slides tell the story of an attempt by suffragettes to infiltrate Parliament from the Thames. Hiding in oil barrels, they plan to be unloaded onto the Terrace, but two burly policemen, upon hearing some ‘rustling’ coming from the barrels, suspect a suffragette plot and attempt to lure them out. Claiming that women are unable to resist the joys of a ‘fashion paper’, they read aloud ‘of the latest styles’ to ‘snare the birds’ and entice the stowaways out. Covering the barrels with a net, the women are captured as they emerge to storm parliament, and hauled off to Cannon [sic] Row police station. ‘Those who won’t walk must be rolled’.
The illustrations are neatly drawn and vibrantly hand-coloured. Both the first and final slide suggest credit for the images belongs to the periodical ‘The Graphic’. Richard Crangle on the Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource (University of Exeter) attributes the set to one of the leading magic lantern manufacturing firms of York & Sons, based in Bayswater London, and dates it no later than 1907. One of the partners, William York, was a ‘photographic artist’, and may possibly have been responsible for the topical set.
Magic lantern shows began towards the end of the 17th century but only became more popular towards the end of the 19th century with improvements in lamp sources. The shows could be educational - astronomy was a popular subject, through to didactic presentations (a favourite topic was the demon drink) to sophisticated shows using double or triple lanterns to produce moving and dissolving images. Current affairs and political matters provided a wealth of material, and Lucerna lists of number of sets relating to political cartoons, though this appears to be one of only a very few relating to the Women’s Rights movement and the Suffragettes in particular. Crangle notes further that the set was listed in the stock of Riley Brothers, and also Ivens & Co. It was common practice for sets to be sold, or sometimes hired out, to other stockists and suppliers, and were sometimes made to order for specific retailers.