Released in the late 1950s by Rainbow Crafts, the Magnajector was a kid-friendly opaque projector. Such devices used a combination of lighting and mirrors to reflect on a wall or screen a magnified image. Typically, these toys came were used to project a variety of illustrated materials, including photos, magazines, and comic panels. Opaque projectors are often referred to as a modern successor to Magic Lanterns, one of the earliest forms of slide projectors invented in the 1600s.
Rainbow Crafts was best known as the original inventors and distributors of Play-Doh, and the toy projector was the company’s first foray outside of its iconic molding compound. Rainbow Crafts marketed the Magnajector as an educational toy for classroom use, a drawing/tracing aid, and even as an entertainment device for “shut-ins.” The toy was constructed of black plastic and weighed a scant 28-ounces, making it very portable.
The Magnajector functioned with a 60-Watt incandescent light bulb and a mirror placed at a 45-degree angle to enlarge black and white or colour illustrations placed in its aperture to approximately a four-foot width. Use required a flat surface and standard electrical outlet for its long power cord.
Following the toy’s initial popularity, Rainbow Crafts released a Deluxe Set, which included a set of post-card sized flashcards and illustrations from travel company, Rand McNally, a 32-inch x 36-inch screen, and a “Picture-Lok” card positioner that ensured proper placement of objects under the projector.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.