Magic lantern slides reveal Louisville history

By Kathy Jones, Filson Volunteer

The Filson recently received seventy glass lantern slides rescued by a realtor from the attic of a Louisville house. She knew only that they came from the All-Prayer Foundlings Home. The Filson’s library collection includes a pamphlet on the All-Prayer FoundlingsHome, The Golden Key, written by G. C. Cromer, the founder of the home, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, circa 1931. From this we learned that Cromer and his wife founded the orphanage in 1905, and over the course of the first twenty-five years cared for more than seven hundred children under the age of two.

Although glass slides imprinted with illustrations date back to the seventeenth century, it wasn’t until 1850 that William and Frank Langenheim patented a process to develop images directly onto to glass for projection. The glass lantern slides, also known as magic lantern slides, were common in the early 1900s and were used in a similar way to today’s power point presentations. The slides in this collection include images of the orphans and adult caregivers as well as illustrations of biblical stories and moral teachings, and the scores and lyrics of hymns. From the slides and the pamphlet, we identified the location of the homes in Butchertown and Clifton.

Cromer explains that name “All Prayer” refers to Pilgrim’s Progress, where prayer is the pilgrim’s sole support and defense. The home never solicited funds, nor did they take donations from “liquor business or any other unchristian way.” The slide collection appears to be an integral part of sharing the Cromer’s mission to care for Louisville’s orphans. Cromer writes, “Our testimony of answered prayer has been given in fifteen states. We have beautiful stereopticon views which we show and nearly always have some of the children from the home along to sing and recite on the program.” From the All-Prayer Foundlings Home collection, it is possible to imagine just such a program.

All-Prayer Foundlings Home, founder George C. Cromer, center


All-Prayer Foundlings Home, 1622 Story Avenue

First site of the All-Prayer Foundling home on Story Avenue




Orphans at a table

Foundlings sitting around at table



Pilgrim knocking at the gatePilgrim knocking at the gate from Pilgrim's Progress

Filson Historical

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