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    

1864 President Abraham Lincoln Cdv Profile Photograph By Mathew BradyAntique 1878 Gems Bierdstadt White Mountains Stereocard & Stereoviewer BookOutstanding Stereo Daguerreotype Medicine Man With Book Skull Cross In RobesAntique Viewer & 95 Keystone View Co Stereoscope Photos1860's Civil War Stereoview Photo Of Union Navy Frigate Uss PensacolaHuge Lot Antique 450+ Stereoview Stereo Cards Stereoscope Real Photo Keystone ++1860's Civil War Stereoview Photo Of Atlanta Railroad Destruction By Sherman1865 Civil War Stereoview Photo Of General Frank Blair And Staff In Grand Parade100 Stereoviews 1870's-1880's Lot Various Photographers And Sites100 Keystone Stereoviews Lot W/ Case; Asia, Europe, Mid-east, Egypt Africa Other1860's Civil War Stereoview Photo Of 3rd Regiment United States ArtilleryKeystone Monarch Stereo Viewer, Stereoscope, Pat'd 1904, BeautifulStereoview La Planchette Ghost Appears At Ouija BoardOld Antique Stereoscope Emil Busch A-g Rathenow (no.585)Vintage Lot Of Stereoview Cards(265) Plus 2 ViewersUnderwood & Underwood Stereoscopic Viewer And 44 Cards - U & U Sun SculptureAntique Vintage Stereoscope Viewer Plus 56 Photo CardsLot 100 Keystone Wwi Stereoviews Shoshone Indians Stereoview Circa 1869 By Andrew J. Russell U.s Army1860's Civil War Stereoview Photo Of The Sally-port At Fort Slemmer W/ TroopsVintage Underwood 1901 Stereoscope 3d Stereo Viewer With 55 Stereoview Cards1860's Civil War Stereoview Photo Of Confederate Fort Mcallister Near SavannahLarge Lot (~200) Glass Stereo Slides 45x107 Format Verascope TaxiphoteVintage Antique Stereoscope Slide Viewer With 9 StereoviewsHumorous Antique Stereoview Slide Photograph Man On A Penny Farthing BicycleVintage Stereoscope Finder Antique Slider Viewer 1940sStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #165 Curing Buffalo Hides Cheyenne Village IndianStereoview Early English View Of Sculptors In Their Studio RareStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #186 Crittendens Grave Custers Battle FieldStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #242 The First Jail In Deadwood Dakota TerritoryStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #216 Deadwood Looking North 1876 Dakota TerritoryStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #149 Indian Agent With All Chiefs Of Yankton SiouxStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #127 Gros Ventres Chiefs Fort Berthold Dakota Antique Rainforth Stereoscopic Skin Clinic Stereoview Slides Viewer DermatologyJohn Brown's Fort, Harpers Ferry, Va._keystone Stereoview #176_civil WarStereoview Of Pa Oil Regions Kinzua Bridge W/trainEarly Stereoview Residence A.h. Hinkle Mt. Auburn Cincinnati Ohio Kohl & TylerAntique Set 48 Wwi Stereoview Photos,keystone View Co,world War,soldier,zeppelinLarge Lot Of 80 Assorted Stereo Views , Assorted Men Playing Baseball In A Field, Found In A Collection Of Upstate Ny Stereoviews19th. C. Santa Barbara California State Street With Parade1860s Stereoview Photo Royal Navy Hms Revenge Flag Ship G W Wilson 318a Nr Rare 19th. C. Deadwood Dakota Territory Ingleside Black Hills Gold StereoviewC1870 Fisherville New Hampshire *covered Bridge & Town Scene* By M. S. Lamprey Goodridge Bros Stereoview Card Photo Potter St Union Station Saginaw Michigan Goodridge Bros Stereoview Card Lumbering Two Lumberjacks In MichiganAntique Vintage Keystone View Company Telebinocular Stereoscope 3d Viewer Photo 1876 Centennial Views, Grand Rapids, Mi, G.w. Morton, Photographer StereoviewRare 19th. C. California George Macomb's Store Auburn California Forest HillGraves Of Union Prisoners Stereoview Charleston Sc Civil War By SouleStanley S J Morrow Stereoview #169 Jerking Buffalo Meat Yellowstone River IndianAntique Stereoview, The Kansas City Bridge By The Bower Brothers., Missouri7x Taxiphote Glass Slide Trays - J Richard Paris FranceLot Keystone Stereopticon Slides (32) 150+ Whiting's Sculptoscope Penny Arcade Stereoviewer(stereograph)c1913 W/box1860’s Seven (7) Holy Land, Egypt, Nubia, Gaza, Israel StereoviewsStereoview 1903 Malay Street Japanese Immoral St Singapore Red Light District NrStereoview William England Break Neck Mountain West Point NyAntique 1870's Photo Stereoview Summit Railroad Station Catawissa Pa PennsylvaniRare 19th. C. San Francisco, California Chinese Merchant & Wife Stereoview

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Walking on Mars: NASA, Microsoft Explore Red Planet with Wearable HoloLens, January 23rd

Using pictures for navigation is something Mars planners are very used to, and on occasion the Curiosity or Opportunity rovers will take pictures that can be converted into 3D stereo views. That said, it's hard for humans to see how far away objects...Read more

Microsoft HoloLens to take NASA scientists to Mars
Times of India, January 22nd

rover operations required scientists to examine Mars imagery on a computer screen. But even 3D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships. The OnSight system uses holographic computing...Read more

Microsoft and NASA's JPL team up to create a hologram of Mars
Long Beach Press Telegram, January 22nd

Never before, he said, has holographic computing been combined with spacecraft operations. Previously scientists examined Mars images on a computer screen and had to make inferences about what they were really seeing. Even with 3-D stereo views, ...Read more

NASA team up with Microsoft to help scientists in 'virtual exploration of Mars'
New Kerala, January 22nd

But images, even 3-D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships. To view this holographic realm, members of the Curiosity mission team don a Microsoft HoloLens device, which surrounds them ...Read more

Microsoft Planning to Develop Hologram Tech for Use in Interplanetary Exploration
Tech Times, January 22nd

Unfortunately, even with 3D stereo views, images don't offer the same depth that human vision offers that aids in understanding spatial relationships. OnSight will be using holographic technology overlaid with rover data and visual information. As...Read more

NASA and Microsoft work together on new technology to let Scientists work ...
Clarksville Online, January 22nd

But images, even 3-D stereo views, lack a natural sense of depth that human vision employs to understand spatial relationships. The OnSight system uses holographic computing to overlay visual information and rover data into the user's field of view...Read more

Wolcott & Gregg Sewing Machine Store
urbanmilwaukee, January 14th

Bangs would come up with a very novel promotional idea. The method used in stereo views was to present two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer. When viewed, these two-dimensional images are then combined in the brain to...Read more

Enthusiasts buy, sell antique paper from books to postcards at event
Columbus Dispatch, January 5th

Galen Gonser of Grandview Heights paid $275 for several of Waldsmith's stereo-view cards — black-and-white photos that were taken in Columbus around the turn of the 20th century. Gonser, 76, takes his own 3-D photos and comes to the show every year to ...Read more