First Color Slides


The second item standing out between all the factory standard negative boxes and paper sleeves, was the E. Leitz coverglass box, containing at one point in time 2″ x 2″ glass.

These cover glasses were used to assemble the early 2″ x 2″ slides, before factory standard cardboard or plastic frames.

Leitz Cover Glass box and two slides showing paper and metallic matte.

In the early years of positive transparencies, slides were routinely mounted between glass rather than the factory standard cardboard or plastic mounts. Mounting between glass plates protects the slide emulsion from fingerprints, dust and scratches during handling.

The chromes were sandwiched in between two glass plates, often with an opaque metallic paper matte one side and a notched white paper matte at the other side. The trimmed Kodachrome film slides in between the notches of the paper matte for proper alignment, one could then write on the paper matte side for documentation purposes.

That whole sandwich was then taped together at the four edges. Not all that different than the much larger glass lantern slides (3.25″ x 4″ format), popular from the 1890’s on, till well after WWII for educational purposes.

My jaw dropped when, after opening the box, I found few 35mm slides with an April 6, 1941 date on it. That’s day-to-day 15 years before I was even born.

Two 1941 slides from Joel’s trip.

Kodak launched the commercial color “Kodachrome” process in 1935 and in 1936 this still- photography film became available in 35mm roll film format, and as such, more accessible to the amateur photographer.

Yes, there were possibilities to make color still photographic images prior to this date, but cost, development and print complexity, made this a process that was not easily accessible to a beginning amateur photographer or even an established fine art photographer. Third party service labs couldn’t process Kodachromes till after 1954.

The first 35mm carousel slide projector was not invented till 1965. Those projecting slides used glass lantern slide projectors, with an adaptor to get the job done.

It’s safe to say that Joel experimented with color photography early on, and that makes him an early adopter in my book, regardless of purpose or subject matter.

Maybe this was at the time only for a few occasional 35mm rolls, as development of Kodachrome had to be done by Kodak till 1954. (Note: Kodachrome was discontinued by Kodak in 2009 and processing ended in 2010.)

The 37 slides in this particular box cover April 6, 1941 through April 11, 1941, documenting sights and few people from a trip to Boulder Dam through Death Valley with a few stops. There are also some later slides 1941 with as subject matter Stockton and Santa Cruz.

The last 35mm glass slides in this format, found in a second such box in the collection, are from Dec 10, 1951, when Joel photographed the enameling on copper of ash trays. More on those in a future blog.

But this decade gap in time, hints that there are most likely more handmade slides out there.

Eight April 6, 1941 and a single April 7, 1941 slide

We’ll be looking in more detail at these first Kodachrome slides in the following blog post. There’s something to say about all of them, and yes, I’ll turn them in the proper orientation.

Cheers !


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