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[Original Art]

View at Kansas Memory

Accession Number: 1949.22.38

Physical Description: Hand painted glass lanternslide in a handmade rectangular wood frame. The window of the frame is a circle in the center. Slide depicts a large chicken wearing a bathrobe and seated on a chair, with its feet soaking in steaming water. The title is written very faintly in pencil on the back of the frame below the window. Glass is a roughly cut trapezoidal shape with a similar cutout space in the wood for the glass to rest in. Five metal glazing points hold the glass in place. A small v-shaped notch in the top right corner of the frame.

History of Object: Lanternslide painted by Samuel James Reader of Indianola, Kansas, and given to the donor by daughter Elizabeth Reader. Samuel Reader moved to Kansas in 1855 when he was 19 years old and lived in Indianola, a town north of Topeka, until his death in 1914. Primarily a farmer, he also was a Civil War soldier, artist, trustee for the township and Rochester Cemetery, and built two of his own houses. Reader kept a diary with nearly daily entries from age 13 until July 22, 1913. This diary makes up fifteen volumes. According to diary entries, Reader began making lanternslides on January 12, 1866. He created his first magic lantern out of a nail keg with a spyglass, but the image was very blurry. After a few months he tried to convince his aunt Eliza of the need to purchase a proper magic lantern, arguing that he saved money by not purchasing alcohol or tobacco. On June 30th, 1866, Reader received by mail order a magic lantern tube and chromotrope (the latter gave the appearance of a kaleidoscope when a lever was moved up and down.) Reader continued to purchase new and improved magic lantern equipment for many years. According to a letter from his daughter, Elizabeth Reader (dated December 1, 1942), their house was crowded with neighbors watching lanternslide shows on winter evenings. She noted that her father also held shows at country schoolhouses and churches to raise money for the community. He used a pocketknife and saw to make the slides. Reader noted in his diary that he laid out the slides on the roof for the paint to dry. This slide probably depicts Reader's imaginative version of chicken cholera, a disease that affected a variety of birds. This disease was especially debilitating for farmers who owned chickens until a vaccine was developed in the 1880s. It is possible that Reader read about chicken cholera in agricultural news articles, or perhaps one of his own chickens had the disease.

Date: Between 1866 and 1913

Dimensions (in cm): 9.50 (H) 17.20 (W)

Marks/Inscriptions: [Handwritten near bottom of back of frame ? very faint] Chicken cholerav ||

Index Terms

Associations and Subjects

    Origin, Place of: Shawnee County (Kan.)
    Origin, Place of: Topeka (Kan.)
    Individual: Reader, Samuel James, 1836-1914
    Theme/topic: Agriculture
    Theme/topic: Chickens
    Origin, Place of: Indianola (Kan.)
    Theme/topic: Chicken cholera

Creators and Contributors

    Reader, Samuel J.

Status: Cataloged

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