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
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The Seasoned Collector: Victorian images at Rengstorff House; Toy Show in ...Contra Costa Times, March 6th
Viewers will be able to study a batch of daguerreotypes and stereo views featuring intriguing images from the 1800s. The exhibition runs through March 23. You can tour the house and see the exhibit from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and ...Read more
March is a Good Month to Hunt for Stereoscopic AntiquesStereoscopyNews, March 2nd
Stereo Cards. OF course if you have a stereoscope, you will need some stereo cards to watch with it. An almost bottomless source of old stereoviews is Jeffrey Kraus Antique Photographics (New Paltz, NY,USA). You may want to check also StereoViews and...Read more
Yesterday's Milwaukee Rock River Canal, 1860surbanmilwaukee, February 25th
Notice some of the details in this mid-1860s stereoview photo. In the background the relatively new Humboldt. Ave. bridge can be seen. South of the river Humboldt was named Racine St. for many years. The rail line is precariously cut into the steep...Read more
Remote Screening Can Help Detect Diabetic Eye Disease, Reports Optometry ...Newswise (press release), February 25th
Within a few months, patients returned to the clinic for specialist examination, including dilation of the pupil and stereo views of the interior of the eye—the standard test for diabetic eye disease. The dilated exams showed clinically significant...Read more
Old Faithful Inn flooring restored in CodyCody Enterprise, February 24th
He has a vast collection of Yellowstone stereo views and co-wrote “Yellowstone: Yesterday and Today” with Paul Horsted. Since 2001, Berry and his wife Robin have managed Robin's Nest B&B, which features an Old Faithful Inn room with a floor fabricated ...Read more
Through Troy Wandzel's looking glassConnect Savannah.com, February 18th
Kuehl employed several different cameras for the project, including a sharply-focused Hassellblad 8x10 and a pinhole stereoview that yielded blurred, ethereal pieces that attendees of the exhibit will be able to see through a 1950s art deco viewfinder...Read more
Yesterday's Milwaukee Saengerfest and City Hall, 1868urbanmilwaukee, February 18th
This building appears in many early stereoviews beginning in the 1860s. The current City Hall, built in 1895, is on this same site. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these...Read more
Yesterday's Milwaukee Iversen's Store on Water and Mason Streetsurbanmilwaukee, February 11th
The vast majority of stereoviews of Milwaukee were produced in the 1870s and the 1880s. For those unfamiliar with the term, a stereo was a pair of photographs taken by a special camera so that when mounted on a board and viewed through a stereopticon ...Read more