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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European, American daguerreotypes will be exhibited in PoughkeepsieThe 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
Yesterday's Milwaukeeurbanmilwaukee, 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
Lyman Allyn Art Museum Presents 'Lost Gardens of New England' ExhibitionArtfixDaily, March 2nd
The show includes watercolors, historic photographs, prints, stereo view cards, garden supply catalogues, and even a mid-nineteenth-century nurseryman's bill with a list of plant materials. Landscape drawings provide insight into how these gardens were ...Read more
The Emerging Challenge of Augmenting Virtual Worlds With Physical RealityMIT Technology Review, February 27th
Budhiraja and co began by modifying an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with a pair of cameras that produce a stereo view of the real world in front of the headset. They then came up with four different ways of superimposing the real world images...Read more
'Lost Gardens' of New England unearths forgotten gemsCT Post, February 25th
The exhibition will features more than 40 paintings and photographs of lost gardens, garden ornaments, outdoor furniture, stereo view cards, garden supply catalogues and original design specifications, as well as objects from the Lyman Allyn's collection...Read more
Chapman's Biggest Department Storeurbanmilwaukee, February 24th
The photographer here is H. H. Bennett and this is one of the very last of his published stereoviews of Milwaukee. He did some 200 stereoviews of 19th century Milwaukee. After this period local stereoviews would become very scarce, first getting...Read more
Polly's People: Sphinxes at Forsyth Park in SavannahSavannah Morning News, February 20th
Apparently the eBay seller credited the information to the Savannah Stereoview Collection, MS 018, Jen Library Archives and Special Collections, the Savannah College of Art and Design. My collection of vintage Savannah postcards includes several of ...Read more
Railroads, Masons, Mormon & Jewish Material at National Book AuctionsFine Books & Collections Magazine, February 14th
The ephemera lots include early maps & cartography, signatures of literary & historical figures, antique stereoviews featuring railroad and Upstate New York scenes, Lincoln-related items, antique postcards, magazines, chromolithographs, tobacciana...Read more