In the era before moving pictures, magic lantern shows were a popular form of entertainment. An early precursor of a slide projector, this device used the light of a candle or oil lamp to project images on a wall or screen from glass slides. Public magic lantern shows entertained audiences with projected images, narration, and live music. Smaller models of magic lanterns were available for home use and were especially popular as holiday gifts.
This magic lantern was handmade by Edward Ernest Kuechler, a tinsmith and Civil War veteran, for his son Charles, a schoolteacher. Charles used it to show slides to the students at his one-room school as a reward for good behavior. The magic lantern passed to Charles’s son-in-law, grandson, and great-grandson, all of whom were schoolteachers, before being donated to the Illinois State Museum.