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    

Scarce Antique Victorian Rosewood Stereoview Storage Box For Glass Or Card C1860Super Antique Victorian Walnut Brewster Stereoscope Stereoview Viewer C1860 Antique H. C. White Stereoscope 3d Viewer Wooden Hand Held Stereoviewer Pat 19031860's Rowsell Table Model Walnut Parlor Stereographoscope StereoscopeCa1886 William F. Buffalo Bill Cody Stereoview Photo Of Cody On HorsebackDiableries , Satan , Hell . 6 Stereoscopic Views Cards E.h Paris 18601850's Maple Brewster Stereoscope Stereoviewer & StereoviewsAntique Stereoview Card Of Siamese TwinsWsa7445 Keystone V23915 Li Hung Chang Great Viceroy & Diplomat China DStereoviews-boxed Set Of 18, Niagara Falls With Booklet By Underwood & Underwood100 Keystone Stereoviews Set Tour Of World Diamond Series With CaseDouble 2 Din Touch Screen Car Stereo Dvd Player Radio Bt+free Rear View CameraHuge 135-pc Lot Of Vntg Antique Stereoview Sterographic Photographic Cards N/rInterior Of Fort Richardson Va. Anthony Stereoview, Brady NegativeWheeler Survey, Timothy O'sullivan-the Start From Camp Mojave Arizona 1871Interior Of Fort Totten Va. Anthony Stereoview, Brady NegativeArizona Indian Stereoscopic Sneaking Up To Steal Rifle StereoscopicStereoscopic Skin Clinic Rainforth Disease Medical Stereoview 132 Card Complete1870s California Yosemite Valley Indians Camp - Hazeltine Neg. Pub. By J.p.souleMuseum Quality Keystone Art Deco Telebinocular Televiewer Stereoscope & PedestalSawyer View Master Personal Stereo Camera & Film Cutter 6 Reel & HoldersGorgeous H.c White Paris Exposition Stereoscope W/original Luster Pristine Cond.Stereoviews-boxed Set Of 18, Grand Canyon With Booklet By Underwood & Underwood'necklace' American Indian Pai Utes Powell Survey Colorado Stereoview By HillersChina ~stereoview Maraudenrs Small Platoon Punishment Of 101 Lieutenant Lemann1954 Stereo Realist Slide H. C. Mckay - Mermaid's View-master Camera UnderwaterWinnebago Indians Real Photo Stereoview By H.h. Bennett Wisconsin Scenery NrNew Mexico, Indians, Guns, Pueblo Tesque, By Bennett & Brown, Santa Fe , Rare !!1/6 Plate Tintype Rare Woman W Stereoview Magnifying Glass Abstract ReflectionCanton Prison China Boxer Rebellion Stereoview Macabre Decapitated HeadsChina Boxer Rebellion Stereoview Chief Undergoing Terrible Death For CrimesB. C. Kenney Castleton Vermont Stereoview J. E. White Repair Shop Little Pond Victorian Professional Glass Stereoview 74. Perspective De La Rue De Rivoli 1860Unusual Adjustable Stereo Card Viewer / Lenes Adjust In & OutLot Of 7 Early Stereoviews Of Normal School In Westfield Mass49 Antique Color Stereograph Cards Stereoscope 1904 T.w. Ingersoll Jesus Japan Antique Perfecscope Stereoscope Viewer Original Wood Box 1864 Stereoview - Sherman's Men Resting In Confederate Fortifications At Atlanta1880 Stereoview Ishpeming Michigan Baseball Banner On Main St.nelson PhotographDakota Territory-broadway, Fargo By F. Jay HaynesView-master Personal Stereo Camera W/ Leather Case For Parts Or Restore.Vintage Antique Underwood & Underwood Stereoscope Viewer With 30 Slides Military 1800's " Tunnicliff's Eagle," Cooperstown, Ny Stereoview With Green Border Vintage Antique Wood Swivel Handle Monarch Deer Stereoscope Viewer Tool EngravedAntique Post Mortem 1899 Stereoptic Card Mourning Mother With 2 Dead GirlsVtg 1800's Wood Stereoscope Card Viewer Stereograph Picture View Birds Eye MapleCivil War Stereoview/washington City Views/the Old Capitol Prison/e & Ht AnthonyBalloon Ascension At Woodward's Gardens, San Francisco, CaliforniaSan Francisco-market Street, View East, From Orphan Asylum By WatkinsCentral Pacific Railroad By Alfred A. Hart-bear River Valley-little York MinesVintage Stanhope Oxen Bone Lantern 3/4 Inch View Inside Long Glass Tube Gone Vintage Stereoscope And Lots Of Wwi SlidesGoergetown Colorado, Leavenworth MountainAntique 1890's Stereoview Real Photo Panoramic View Of Leiria Castle, Portugal 1800's " Mogegan Glen, 2d Fall," Cooperstown, Ny Stereoview By Smith & SaylesWeitfle Stereoview Line Of Union Pacific Railroad The Narrows Ogden Canon Utah 1800's " Wood Side From Main St," Cooperstown, Ny Stereoview With Green Border 1800's Seven Men On Shore Line, Cooperstown, Ny Stereoview With Green Border Six 1904 Stereoviews - St. Louis World's Fair - Various Buildings & ScenesCentral Pacific Railroad Long Ravine Bridge Hundred 20 Feet High Stereoscopic

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Best Binoculars for Astronomy and Stargazing 2014
Space.com, July 15th

Binoculars are portable and easy to use, plus, they give observers a stereo view of the universe instead of only being able to view with one eye closed as with a telescope, Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, astrophotographers from Massachusetts, said...Read more

Summer Estate Auction
Maine Antique Digest, July 10th

BOOKS, EPHEMERA, PHOTOGRAPHY: Document signed Abe Lincoln, James Joyce Ulysses, 1st ed, Napoleon battle maps, NUS erotic photography, 19th c. bound atlases Mass., Plymouth Cty., Barnstable Cty., Norfolk Cty., stereoviews Rochester & New ...Read more

The Mysterious Oracle at the Soldiers Home Fair
urbanmilwaukee, July 8th

Stuffed snowy owls perched over the booth add to the fair's exotica. An event like this had never been held before in Milwaukee. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images...Read more

Yesterday's Milwaukee
urbanmilwaukee, July 1st

Old Abe was a bald eagle who would live in the state Capitol. Everybody contributed to make the fair a great success. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with...Read more

Inside the Soldiers Home Fair, 1865
urbanmilwaukee, June 24th

Stereoviews by the Lydstons are extremely rare, they were specialists in portrait photography. These views are identified on the back in ink and dated June, 28 1865. While the exterior of the fair building was simple, the interior decorations were very...Read more