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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London Stereoscopic Company

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Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Community news Aug. 23, 2014
The Keene Sentinel, August 23rd

Based on Boas' collection of postcards and stereoviews begun more than a decade ago, the book was completed for publication in conjunction with Walpole's 2014 Old Home Days celebration. The postcards and stereoviews, with historical captions, are ...Read more

The Making of 'As It Was... And Still Is... Walpole, New Hampshire'
Brattleboro Reformer, August 21st

The illustrated talk reviews the genesis and growth of Boas's collection of cards and stereoviews, the design decisions that determined the look of the finished publication, and detailed looks at the many of the published images. The presentation on...Read more

The Plankinton House Hotel, 1869
urbanmilwaukee, August 19th

The American House opened its door in 1843, three years before this city was incorporated, on the site of the present Plankinton Arcade. It was the second hotel in the city according to the voluminous 1881 History of Milwaukee. The first illustration...Read more

Back in time: Photographer John M. Kuhn
Stillwater Gazette, August 8th

He took all types of photographs, which included stereo views, which he sold out of his studio. He received many orders from across the county, even from the Holman English Opera Company, which the local paper stated, “speaks well for our young artist.”...Read more

Morpho works to counter ID document forgery
Security Document World (press release), August 8th

An optical lens structure is integrated in the polycarbonate card body to create the stereo view. Morpho says it only needs a single photo of the document holder in the usual formal, compliant with ICAO-guidelines. Special software turns the photo into...Read more

Newhall House, 1883, After the Fire
urbanmilwaukee, August 5th

It would be replaced by another landmark building to be featured in our column for next week. 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

Mars rover 2020: Oxygen generation and 6 more amazing experiments
Register, July 31st

Today's Martian rover has twin cameras to give a stereo view of the landscape, but the Mars 2020 machine will carry a next-generation system, MASTCAM-Z, that will allow the cameras to zoom in on features. This will not only make picking out a route for...Read more

Newhall House, Late 1860s
urbanmilwaukee, July 29th

Coverage of the controversy helped the Journal establish itself as a viable alternative to the much older and more established Milwaukee Sentinel. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column...Read more