November 15, 2010
L. E. Meeker Lantern Slides
The Arboretum’s collection of historic photographs includes two boxes of glass lantern slides which include several early images of the Rose Parade as well as scenes in Pasadena and other parts of the San Gabriel Valley.
Lantern slides were invented in 1849, only ten years after the invention of photography. They are positive photographic images on glass usually four by five inches in size. They were projected onto a screen using an early version of a slide projector. They made it possible to project large images that were viewable by sizeable audiences. Like the Meeker lantern slides they were often hand colored and when shown they were sometimes accompanied by live music, sound effects and dramatic readings. They were essentially a precursor to motion pictures. Information in detail can be found on the Magic Lantern Society’s web site.
Unfortunately we know very little about Meeker however some of the slides are inscribed “L.E. Meeker” and in some cases “M.D.” is added. A photograph of a pencil portrait includes a note indicating that Meeker was a physician.
Census records suggest that they may have belonged to a Dr. Lewis Edgar Meeker M.D. (1851-1918) of Brooklyn New York. As a young man, Meeker lived in Arcata, California where his son Lewis Edgar Meeker Jr. was born in 1881. Dr. Meeker was apparently a keen photographer and a President of the Eastern District Savings Bank. A note on page 210 of the journal Photographic Times and American Photographer in the 1887 issue under news from the Brooklyn Institute (now the Brooklyn Museum of Art) describes a lantern slide show presented by Meeker of old houses in Brooklyn. Meeker’s death was announced in the June 8, 1918 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Cause of death is not given but it is possible that the Class of 1872, Detroit Medical College graduate may have been a victim of the great 1918 Influenza Pandemic like so many others but this is simply guesswork at the moment.
At present, we can’t be certain that the images were taken by Meeker or even if this is the correct L. E. Meeker. However, it seems likely and more research will undoubtedly reveal more about this collection of images. Perhaps someone reading this posting will be able to supply the solution to this mystery? We're hoping to get assistance in making high quality digital scans of the images to facilitate access and study of the images.
The first Tournament of Roses was held in 1890 to showcase the mild winter weather in Pasadena. Carriages bedecked with flowers probably made a powerful impression on the visiting snow birds as did images of the event which made their way east. Perhaps doctor Meeker retained fond memories of his visit as did many others who visited early in the 20th century.
Mitchell Hearns Bishop
Curator, Historic Landscape and Collections