Antique and Vintage Stereoview Photographs

The idea for stereoview photographs (also known as stereoscopic photographs, stereographs, or, simply, views) was hatched long before their invention, and even well prior to the first photographs. In the early 17th century, three separate men, Giovanni Battista della Porta, Jacopo Chimenti da Empoli, and Francois d’Aguillion, made drawings, or allusions to, what would eventually become the stereoscope or stereo viewer.

What these men envisioned essentially became a reality when the stereoscope was finally introduced in the early 19th century. Stereoscopes use two nearly-identical images, each taken a few inches to the side of the other. When viewed through two lenses set 2.5 inches apart, approximately the space between the eyes, the result is the illusion of a three-dimensional picture. In fact, stereoscopes are seen as the precursors to 3D entertainment. Much of the three-dimensional technology of today is based on the simple principles that allow the stereoscope to function.

Sir David Brewster often gets the credit for inventing stereoscopes, but he first designed the box-shaped viewer. The first stereoscope was actually introduced in 1833 by Sir Charles Wheatstone in Great Britain. At that time, photographs did not exist, so drawings were used instead. By the 1850s, photography was possible so stereoscopes began featuring this new technology.

Because the stereoscope preceded the publication of photographs in newspapers and magazines, stereo viewers were seen as forms of entertainment. People would pass around the stereoscope and see all sorts of beautiful scenes that they otherwise might never have been introduced to.

In 1859 Oliver Wendell Holmes (yes, that Oliver Wendell Holmes) invented a handheld stereograph viewer which was later manufactured by Joseph L. Bates in Massachusetts. These antique stereographs are highly sought-after today.

Before stereoviews caught on in the United States, however, they were popular in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Roger Fenton was an early stereoview photographer, as was Jules Duboscq, who made daguerreotype stereographs popular. At the same time tintype and albumen photographs were being used in stereoscopes.

In fact, the vintage photographs that were placed inside stereoscopes are even more collectible than the devices themselves. The list of themes for these pictures is limitless, a...

One of the most popular genres was railroad photos. Rail transportation was developing alongside photographic innovation, so many people that never rode the rails could at least see them through a stereoscope. One of the leading railroad and Western stereoview photographers was Carleton Watkins. Other views included mines, landscapes, automobiles, and, of course, nudes. In the United States, stereoviews allowed people living on the East Coast to see the West Coast, and vice versa.

By the latter half of the 19th century, many towns had their own resident stereoview photographer, which means there were plenty of local subjects available for people with stereoscopes to go with the images of far-off lands. Several companies emerged as publishers and distributors of stereoviews on every imaginable subject, the biggest and most successful in the United States being the Keystone View Company of Meadville, Pennsylvania.

The most prolific maker of views, however, was probably the London Stereoscope Company, founded in the early 1850s. It produced hundreds of thousands of views, as well as some portraits. Its peak was the 1850s, which was the height of the stereoscope craze in the United Kingdom. The company remained strong through the next few decades before fizzling in the 1920s. It has since reopened, with its new owners making an attempt to reintroduce the popularity of stereoscopes into today’s digital world.

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Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Art exhibits in the Fremont area
Fremont Tribune, July 1st

Alongside works by Native American artists, stereoviews and photographs from the 19th century portray the indigenous people of the Great Plains as captured through a non-native lens. Admission: Free. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; ...Read more

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Studies Rock-Layer Contact Zone
Space Fellowship, July 1st

This stereo view from the Curiosity Mars rover's Navcam shows a 360-degree panorama around the site where the rover spent its 1,000th Martian day, or sol, on Mars. The image appears three-dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red ...Read more

The Sale of Wes and Shelley Cowan's Stereoviews
Maine Antique Digest, July 1st

To look at just the monetary results of the sale of Wes and Shelley Cowan's stereoview collection, sold by Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati on March 30, is to understand only half the picture—like gazing into a stereoviewer and finding the image can be...Read more

Water Street in 1880
urbanmilwaukee, June 30th

When H.H. Bennett first began photographing his stereoviews of Milwaukee he focused on the most built-up areas of the city, especially downtown and east of the Milwaukee River, where the Iversen store that sold his views was located. This view (circa...Read more

NVIDIA Takes the Lid Off 'Gameworks VR' - Technical Deep Dive and ...
Road to VR, June 29th

Some operations, such as physics simulations and shadow map rendering, can be shared across both stereo views. However, the actual rendering of the views themselves has to be done separately for each eye, to ensure correct parallax and depth cues that ...Read more

Wisconsin Avenue Bridge, About 1880
urbanmilwaukee, June 23rd

Famed photographer H.H. Bennett would arrive in Milwaukee at an opportune time to take his stereoviews. In 1879 the city was growing rapidly, having recovered from the financial crash of 1873. He would photograph the city extensively, especially east...Read more

On Wisconsin: A celebration of the Dells' original promoter
La Crosse Tribune, June 20th

“By 1872, Bennett offered over 200 different stereo views of scenic Wisconsin,” the studio's website proclaims. “These included landscapes of the Dells, Devil's Lake, and the rock formations in Adams and Juneau Counties. These stereo views were sold to...Read more

JC Iverson & Co. About 1879
urbanmilwaukee, June 16th

One of the businesses in the photo helps establish the date of the stereo view. The Quin's antiquarian bookstore and blank book manufactory are of no use as they were located here for some years. However, the saloon of Adam Koch does help as he is...Read more