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Elmer L. Foote Lantern Slides

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The Elmer L. Foote Collection is a group of 190 lantern slides. Lantern slides, glass positive transparencies, were in common use for many years all over the world. Lexington Public Library’s lantern slide images were created by Elmer L. Foote, a Cincinnati photographer and library staff member whose pictures appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune.

Elmer L. Foote was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut on February 27, 1863, the son of Edwin Foote and Ellen Hodges Foote, both natives of Connecticut. He came to Cincinnati about 1884 and married Estelle Allee of Cincinnati in 1888. Annual reports of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County list Elmer Foote in the Circulating Department from 1903 to 1907 and then as the library photographer from 1907 to 1919. Foote died in Norwood, Ohio on September 21, 1919, and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Foote’s obituary in the Commercial Tribune describes him as nationally known, and mentions his "photographic genius."

How the slide collection came to Lexington Public Library is unknown. Although slides are mentioned in Library Board minutes in the early 1900’s, the records do not provide an exact date of acquisition or the donor’s name. It is clear from the Library’s annual reports, however, that the Library served as a place for numerous exhibits and cultural programs in Lexington. The Foote slides were probably used for education and entertainment.

An interesting mix, the slides contain several examples of what might be called "romanticized portraiture." Some of these photographs of unidentified mountain people appear staged, perhaps intended eventually for the postcard market. Hand coloring adds to the interesting atmosphere of many of these images. Along with the portraits are numerous scenes of mountain streams, waterfalls, and scenery in the Cumberland Plateau.

The slides have been digitized by the Kentucky Digital Library, a project of the Kentucky Virtual Library.