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Edward Warren Clark was Magic Lantern Man
Clark's home in Tokyo from engraving in his history of Japan

 

Eyewitness to the world

Candee’s portrait of Clark shows a man born into a deeply religious family. His father was the anti-slavery Congregational minister at North Church and all four of his surviving brothers were involved with the church. Clark was handicapped by a childhood eye injury and his family moved from Portsmouth to New York when he was six. He majored in chemistry and biology at what became Rutgers University.

And here the story really begins. Fresh out of college Clark was hired by the Japanese government in 1871 to teach science to thousands of students. This made him, Candee writes, “one of the first Americans to introduce western science and technology to the Japanese classroom.” Among his students was a young Jutaro Komura who would later negotiate the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo Japanese War in 1905.
Teaching in Tokyo, Clark wrote for the American press about life in Japan, a nation just emerging from its long feudal period into the modern industrial world. He also taught the Japanese about Western culture. As early as 1874 Clark presented photographs of Europe and America to the Mikado using his magic lantern or “magnesium stereopticon.” This was 10 years before playwrights Gilbert & Sullivan set their comic opera “The Mikado” in the exotic and mysterious Japanese setting.

Clark also took photographs of Japan and presented them for the next 25 years in a variety of magic lantern talks shown in the West. His repertoire also included illustrated lectures on the Holy Land, India, and the Tropics. Clark offered a presentation (borrowed from a science fiction novel by Jules Verne) that he entitled ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes.” Audiences were impressed as Clark, an eyewitness to foreign lands, became their own personal tour guide to the wonders of the world.  After the lecture audiences were treated to an exhibition of a new device called the Bell Telephone.

Dark days ahead

At 30 Clark married Louise McCullough and settled into the life of an Episcopal priest serving churches in Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas. He continued to give travel shows on a “colossal” screen measuring 30-feet square. He sometimes mixed Christian teaching into his shows with painted slides depicting biblical themes. A newspaper ad billed the “world famous” Prof. Clark as more entertaining than any concert, play, or opera.

To support his family Clark briefly ran a resort and a game preserve, dabbled in real estate, attempted dairy farming, and wrote travel books, but most of his funds apparently came from his wife’s wealthy family. He conducted tours to Worlds Fairs, the Holy Land, and to Japan. By acting as guide to “rich widows,” as Clark wrote to a friend, he could earn his passage and take more photographs for more lantern shows. Clark made three world tours and was gone for up to six months at a stint before his family life began to unwind.

Richard Candee follows Clark’s life through its darker moments too. One of his four children drowned while skating in 1898. In 1902 he was divorced from Louise who claimed “non-support.” Still traveling, often ill, Clark fell under the influence of a shady homeopathic doctor who sold “Dr. Munyon's Paw-Paw Elixir,” a tonic made from fermented papaya juice. In exchange for a free trip to Europe, Clark appeared in newspaper and magazine testimonials hawking Munyon’s magic elixir as a cure for indigestion and nervousness.

E. Warren Clark was captivated by the bloody Russo-Japanese War that eventually left over 600,000 dead. He used his free trip by Dr. Munyon to collect pictures and make lantern slides of the war. As the conflict blazed on, back in the United Sates in 1904, Clark got deeply involved in efforts to raise money for thousands of Japanese war orphans. The appeal reached 33,000 American churches and Sunday schools. But Clark’s philanthropic crusade exploded into a scandal when one of his associates was caught embezzling thousands of dollars from the Japan Orphans Fund. Despite six months of sacrifice and volunteer effort, the stain of the scandal stuck to Clark.

CONTINUE MAGIC LANTERN

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