A Piece of Lithia Park History

Hannon Library’s Special Collections recently received the gift of a Bausch and Lomb “balopticon” slide projector (sometimes called a stereopticon or “magic lantern”) which had belonged to John Herbert Doran, the first manager of Lithia Park Auto Camp. Stereopticon shows were a form of popular entertainment before the advent of moving pictures. The gift also includes three sets of glass slides.

antique balopticon slide projector

Ashland’s free Lithia Park Auto Camp, which opened in 1915, accommodated a considerable number of visitors, catering to the growing Southern Oregon tourist trade. According to The American Motorist, the journal of the newly organized AA A, the Lithia Park Auto Camp was an “Auto Camp Delux, with electricity, gas cooking plates, and hundreds of lights strung in trees.”

Realizing that he could put on evening programs in the camp, Doran purchased a stereopticon and showed colored slides of Southern Oregon sights including Ashland, surrounding areas, Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, and flowers. He also had a show about the Oberammergau Passion Play and created a lecture entitled “Man in the Making,” which related to evolution. These slide shows were shown from 1917 until 1924 when the Dorans moved to California.

Doran’s slide presentations in the Lithia Park Auto Camp became a popular evening entertainment, particularly during evenings when there was not a Chautauqua program. Ashland was a Chautauqua town. The Chautauqua movement began in Ashland in 1893 and faded away in the 1920s. With a goal of furthering moral and intellectual culture, Ashland Chautauqua programs consisted of concerts, classes, prayer meetings, and lectures, including a packed address by William Jennings Bryant in 1897.

vintage slide projector image of a park

The stereopticon and slides remained in the Doran family until July 12, 2018 when it was generously presented to Hannon Library by Cynthia Doran, Herbert Doran’s granddaughter-in-law.

Special Collections staff look forward to displaying the Doran stereopticon and slides in the future within the library and in conjunction with regional commemorations. Plans are underway to restore the Doran stereopticon to working order.

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