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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'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
Picks of the Week - HappeningsVentura County Reporter, February 18th
“A HISTORY THROUGH 19TH CENTURY STEREOVIEWS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA” 1-2:30 p.m. Philip D. Nathanson, renowned photon historian and collector, will present historical images. Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main St., Ventura. For more ...Read more
Yesterday's Milwaukeeurbanmilwaukee, February 17th
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
Railroads, Masons, Mormon & Jewish Material at National Book AuctionsFine Books & Collections Magazine, February 16th
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
Opera Optics: Aussie Icon Wows in Stereo ViewNBCNews.com, 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
Stereographs, or stereo views, and cards vary in valueazcentral, March 8th
From the 1850s through the 1930s, stereographs — or stereo views as they were more popularly known — were produced by the millions in this country. During the Victorian era, a viewer and a stack of cards graced almost every front parlor in America...Read more