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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Back-to-Back Sales for John McInnisMaine Antique Digest, November 25th
A lot that included stereoviews and the viewer sold for $6658.50, and a Chippendale chest-on-chest was $2530. The sternboard from the fishing vessel Quannapowitt, which was salvaged in 1915, sold for $747.50. Dr. Donovan maintained his medical office ...Read more
Market Square, Late 1860surbanmilwaukee, November 19th
Market Square today is largely a memory, a casualty of the widening of Water and Wells streets. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by...Read more
Alexander Mitchell's Belvedere, 1880surbanmilwaukee, November 12th
This view of the belvedere is the from the third stereo view that noted photographer H. H. Bennett produced of this estate. Is the gentleman in the top hat Mitchell himself? The mount of the stereo view does not indicate this, but we do know Mitchell...Read more
Virtual reality helps people to comfort and accept themselvesMedical Xpress, November 12th
We see a stereo view of what the participant sees …more. Dr Caroline Falconer, first author from UCL Clinical Educational & Health Psychology, said: "Women who experienced a first person perspective through the eyes of the virtual child were soothed...Read more
Images: The Week in PicturesChicago Daily Herald, November 9th
Astrid Roge, 3, of Grayslake, plays with a handmade doll in bunad clothes as she sings a song with her mother, Cheryl, during the Skjold Lodge of the Sons of Norway Heritage Fest at the AUYA Hall in Palatine. Visitors were immersed in the Norwegian ...Read more
Mitchell Mansion's Classic Fountain, 1880urbanmilwaukee, November 4th
This photograph is a stereoview, circa 1880, by H. H. Bennett, the famed Wisconsin photographer best known for his 19th century images of the Wisconsin Dells area. In this Bennett image, the emphasis in less on Mitchell's mansion and more on its...Read more
Marblehead Museum to present Dixey's historic imagesWicked Local Marblehead, November 3rd
Dixey's collection consists of books, photos, stereoviews, cabinet cards, postcards, glass negatives, film negatives, slides and other written paper material. The lecture will show images of Marblehead from the past. It will contain over 100...Read more
Mitchell Building, Around 1880urbanmilwaukee, October 29th
be demolished in the 1960s, a great loss for Milwaukee's 19th century architectural heritage. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by...Read more