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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Invisible Ray: 1921

The Invisible Ray: 1921

Washington's Leader Theater circa 1921. Now playing: The serial "Invisible Ray" and, from 1916, Douglas Fairbanks in "The Americano" and a short called "The Return of Draw Egan." National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


It looks like a group of people standing outside a theater to me. I can't find one that I think looks not to right size or proportion.

Doctored picture?

Is it just me or are more then half of those in the "Line" not to right size or porportion. A few almost look like they were cut out of other pics and added in via computer.... Sorry but as a fan of this site and of these pictures I am going to have to put this one under suspicsion. Looking back I think only 13 of those in the line were actully "There" when this picture was taken.

Yes, I do know about old cameras and film.

[Maybe it's time for a refresher course. See where it says "glass negative" in the caption? That means the photo (click here) was made without film. - Dave]

Asian kid

D.C. had a small Chinatown. The kid may have come from there.

Asian kid in line

Odd to see an Asian kid in the line. I wonder what the story is?

[Lots of Asian diplomats living with their families in D.C. - Dave]

Saturday mornings

My brothers and I also spent Saturday mornings at the kiddie shows and only as an adult did I figure out exactly what my parents were doing at home while we were at the movies.

High Voltage

Check out the special f/x they put up for the "Invisible Ray" display. That makeshift towers on either side look like they have wires strung from insulators, which probably had high voltage running through them to create a Jacob's Ladder type spark gap. There appears to be a spark above the wires, but it looks more like a scratch on the negative, plus the sparks would be jumping between the wires. Although that really wouldn't be invisible or a ray. If only they'd spent as much on an artist for those cutouts.

At the Movies

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
-- Introduction to "The Lone Ranger"

When I was a child in the late 1940s, my grandparents took me to the movies every Saturday evening. The theater always showed a double-feature Western, or shoot-'em-up, as my grandfather called them, a cartoon, a short subject like the Three Stooges, and a serial episode. The serials were a clever way to ensure a returning audience for about 12-15 weeks. Each episode always had a cliffhanger ending that made you eager to return next week to learn how the hero escaped death.

I hope we get to see the interior of the Leader Theater.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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