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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

London Stereoscopic Company

London Stereoscopic Company

Remember the days before television, video, and the Internet? London Stereo sure does. This handsome site, a labor … [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Early & Unusual C.1880 "camera & Photographer" Stereoview Scope Card PhotographRare Antoine Claudet Stereoview Dag Daguerreotype Leather SleeveAntique Verascope Richard Stereoscope Viewer Stereoview Early Wood Box LargeAntique Oak Multi-drawer Stereoview Cabinet With 850 Keystone View Co. CardsHuge Vintage Lot Of 102 Stereoview Cards & Kawin & Co. 1904 Stereoscope - Nice !Great Vintage Keystone Televiewer Stereoscope Adjustable Pedestal StereoviewVintage Anthony Civil War Stereoview ~ Ruins Of The Burnt District Richmond, Va Nice C.1900 Stereoscope W/ (29) Unusual & Early Photographic Stereoview CardsVintage Antique 1898 Stereoscope Viewer With 42 Cards 34pc. Lot Early Americana Stereoview Cards Photographic Klondike Civil War CaliNice Original Pat. 1897 Stereoscope W/ (30) Color Stereoview Cards Comedy Holy+ 1867 Stereoview 156 C E Watkins Pacific Coast - New Almaden Ca Mining Town View1867 Stereoview 136 C E Watkins Pacific Coast - New Almaden Ca Mine, Smelting~1859 Negretti & Zambra Stereoview #91, Canton China Garden Of Trained PlantsC1900 Signed Underwood Ny Stereoscope W/ 25 View Cards Tissue & Early Comedic!1867 Stereoview 160, C E Watkins Pacific Coast, New Almaden Ca Mining Men @ WorkComplete Vintage Wooden Maple Stereoscope Stereoview Viewer C1890F2972~ Timothy O’sullivan 1874 Wheeler Expedition Snake River Idaho #50Vintage Stereoscope Stereoview Card Viewer Antique Saturnscope James M.davis #101867 Stereoview 168, C E Watkins Pacific Coast, New Almaden Ca Mining, Valley F2971~ Timothy O’sullivan 1874 Wheeler Expedition Snake River Idaho #48Vintage Stereoscope Stereoview Card Viewer Antique #9 Confederate Stereoview Of Fort Sumter Broken Flag 1861 Civil War CharlestonKeystone View Company Wooden Card CabinetAntique Vintage Stereoview Card Pawnee Indians Native AmericansHuge Lot Of 30 Vintage Keystone Stereoview Slides! War-related Collectible! Confederate Stereoview Of Fort Sumter Guns 1861 Charleston Civil War1904 Buffalo Bills Wild West Show - Red Indians - Preston Lancashire -stereoviewCivil War Stereoview Card. Fair Oaks Station, Va.. Taylor Huntington19thc Antique Stereoscope Burl Wood Stereoviewer Stereograph With 36 Photo CardsVintage Stereoscope Stereoview Card Viewer Antique #12Rochester Ny Stereoview Card Business Construction Street Billiard Hall BuildingBlack Slave Quarters 1860 South Carolina Plantation Scene Rare Stereoview1904 Buffalo Bills Wild West Show - Col Cody - Preston Lancashire -stereoviewHuge Lot Of 20 Vintage Keystone Stereoview Slides! Zeppelin, German, War-relatedThree Early Canadian Stereoview Photos Gtr Quebec Railroad Toronto & ParliamentCivil War Stereoview Card. Dunker Church, Antietam, 1862. Taylor HuntingtonLot Of 50 Antique Keystone World Views Stereoscope Stereoview CardsVintage Babe Ruth, Tom Mix Stereoview W/ Keystone #50 Stereoscope & Original BoxF2968~ 1874 Utah Territory Western Powell Survey Stereoview #5 By Hillers Lot Of 12 Vintage/antique Native American Theme Stereoview CardsEarly Stereo View Of Henley On Thames Bridge In OxfordshireLot Of 40+ Antique Stereoscope Stereoview CardsStereoview Of Abenakis Indian Basket Sellers At Echo Lake In New HampshireStereo Card, Nowack, Of Hanging Of 38 Dakota SiouxVintage Stereoscope Parts Stereoview Card Viewer Antique #5Lot Of (17) Early Hand-colored Tinted Stereoview Photo Cards People & PlacesJ1324~ Early San Gabriel Mission Los Angeles California Ca Stereoview By Taber About 150 Antique Stereoview(s)(stereographs) Plus ViewerCivil War Stereoview Card. General Meade's Headquarters At Gettysburg.F2965~ 1872 Colorado River Western Us Powell Survey Boat #181 By Hillers Lamy French Tissue Stereoview Diableries #13 Skeletons Crowning Rosiere In Hell19th Century Actresses In Costume: Miniature Glass Stereoviews In Original Box!F2970~ Timothy O’sullivan 1874 Snake River Idaho Western Wheeler Stereoview #50F2974~ Timothy O’sullivan 1872 Wheeler Expedition Early Grand Canyon StereoviewVintage Lilienthal Stereoview ~ Mississippi Steamboats At New Orleans Dock ~ Nr006. West Side Cooper House, Cooperstown, New YorkVintage Stereoscope Stereoview Card Viewer Aluminum Hood Antique #8Vintage Stereoscope Stereoview Card Viewer Joseph L.bates Antique #7Vintage Stereoview ~ Great Kinzua Railroad Bridge Highest In The World Alton Pa

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

The Lakefront, About 1866
urbanmilwaukee, March 31st

gradually supplant Milwaukee, becoming a leader in shipping a wide range of commodities. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner...Read more

See 15 Rare Civil War-Era Photos, March 30th

The rarest and best of the Robin G. Stanford Collection — 541 Civil War-era stereo views (among them a few cartes de visite) — has been acquired by the Library of Congress!” the Center for Civil War Photography wrote in a Facebook post, noting its...Read more

Nation's library gains 'phenomenal' Civil War stereograph collection, March 28th

Some 70 percent of all Civil War documentary photos were shot as stereo views, were hugely popular and sold in huge numbers. Now, inside the library's Madison Building across from the U.S. Capitol, the experts marveled at what Stanford has preserved of ...Read more

Yesterday's Milwaukee
urbanmilwaukee, March 25th

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner. Share on Facebook; Share on Google+; Share on LinkedIn; Share on Reddit; Share on Twitter...Read more

The Seasoned Collector: Junior League sale in San Jose; postcards, toys in ...
Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 5th

One fan wrote to say that she put the date of this show on her calendar more than a year ago. No wonder she's eager. The Junior League of San Jose holds its Rummage Sale only once every two years. This 24th biennial sale, called "the greatest garage...Read more

European, American daguerreotypes will be exhibited in Poughkeepsie
The Daily Freeman, March 4th

The show, which is the largest ever of its type in this region, includes all the major genres of the form — portraiture, landscapes, architectural studies, occupationals, erotic stereoviews and postmortems. Also featured in “Looking Glass” are such...Read more

Milwaukee Fire Department, 1912
urbanmilwaukee, March 3rd

Chief Foley bet his men $100 that he would not live through the night. Unfortunately, he won.” Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by...Read more

Opera Optics: Aussie Icon Wows in Stereo View, May 7th

The Sydney Opera House is reflected in a harborside hotel window in The Rocks district of Sydney on Wednesday. The iconic Australian landmark has attracted millions of visitors since its completion in 1973, and in 2007 it became a UNESCO World Heritage ...Read more