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    

Antique French Unis Burl Stereoscope Viewer 38 Glass Stereoviews Mahogany Case1860's General Ulysses S Grant Civil War Stereoview Photo Portrait By Gurney1860's General Ulysses S Grant Civil War Stereoview Photo Portrait By BradyAntique Keystone Stereoscope With 98 Cards War Military ScenesAntique Whitings Sculptoscope Stereoviewer Amer Novelty Penny Trade StimulatorAntique Stereoscope Stereoviewer Stereo Viewer 23 Stereoview Card Lot Keystone +Antique Stereoscope Stereo Viewer - Good Cond. - Starting Low With No Reserve !!Stereo, Stereoscopic, B And O Railroad Engines, Civil War, West VirginiaCivil War Stereoview. Turret Uss Monitor Passaic. Charleston Fort Sumpter100 Keystone Stereographic Scenic America Through Stereoscope Cards In Box1871 Pedastal Stereoscope StereoviewerAntique Stereoview Viewer W/ Lot Of 60 + View Cards Keystone View Co. Ww1 Look!Antique Stereoscope Slide Viewer With CardsWilliam England Alpine Club Series 151 Stereoviews Switzerland Alps Savoy MoreAntique Lot Of 70 Stereoview Cards Condition Varies Good To PoorAnthony Stereoview - Nco And Officer Of The 31st Pennsylvania Infantry RegimentAntique Stereoscope Stereo Viewer W/ 47 Stereo Cards1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Street Garfield Political Wisconsin By Billings Butte Montana Stereoview Coming Off Shift At High Ore Mine By N. A. ForsythAntique Wooden Stereoscope Viewer Good Vintage Condition Early 1900's UsTissue Stereoview: Dancing Girls Are Too Much For This Guy!Vintage Stereoscope Viewer For Parts Or Repair Vintage Underwood & Underwood New York Stereoscope Viewer With 7 CardsVintage Underwood & Underwood Sun Sculpture Stereoscope W 60 Photo Cards Ml25 Stereoviews Carlo Ponti Venezia Venice Italy Optician Photographer InventorStereoview-bristol, St. Augustine's Gateway By Dutton Of BathTissue Stereoview: Peu D'ane (small Mines) Les Theatres Des Paris1904 St Louis World’s Fair Exposition Stereoview Set 100 Stereocards IngersollChippewa Indian Stereoview 130 Years Old Wales The Bridge At Carmarthen Stereoview Photocard C1860/70sCold Spring Township Hotel Lebanon County Pa P&r Railroad 1860s Stereoview PhotoStereoview International Exhibition 1862 Chinese Court Emperors Palace No203 中国Wsa9432 U&u 28 Busy Karakeui Street Galata Constantinople Turkey DStereoview-bristol, Redcliff Church And Monument By Sedgfield's English Scenery1870s Railroad Stereoview #183 Mt. Washington New Hampshire Nh. Kilburn~1890s Stereoview, Il Elgin Watch Factory Exterior BuildingsSanta Monica California W/ Roller Coaster Beach Cars StereoviewStereo, Stereoscopic, Pennsylvania Railroad, Central Transportation Co.Antique 1870's Lockport Ny 67 Main St. Stereoview Plimptons Excelsior GalleryAntique Stereoview Card The Battery Charleston South Carolina Souder Black BoyStereoscope Stereoview Cards 15 Old Orchard Beach Maine Late 1800s Early 1900sWsa9433 U&u 29 Horse Trolley In Galata’s Crooked Streets Constantinople Turkey DS C Reed Newburyport Ma Stereoview Isle Of Shoals Oceanic Hotel Star Island NhUnion Army Veterans Or Gar Men At Parade In Keene, N.h. - Taken By J.a. French Wsa9451 Greek/turkey War Demonstration Before Palace After Army Defeat Greece DWh Jackson 1871 Ynp Yellowstone Crater Of Castle Geyser Fire Hole StereoviewStreet Scene Worchester Mass Ice Cream Bay St Hs Green Mount Amer Stereoscopic1870s Railroad Stereoview #135 Jacob's Ladder Mt. Washington New Hampshire. Tissue Stereoview: Peu D'ane The Aquarium Les Theatres Des ParisVintage Tru-vue Stereoscope + Seven Film Rolls 1940s With BoxN.a. Forsyth Butte Photographer Stereo View Chief Moise Flathead, Mont. C. 19071870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings . #31870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Erskine's Residence House Wisconsin By Billings . #51870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings 1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings . #21878 Fireman Ithaca Ny "honors" StereoviewStereoview-france, Paris And Palais Et Jardin Des TuileriesMichigan Stereoview Mackinaw Scenery The Cave Of SkullsNew York City Coney Island Beach Stereoview Girls In Swimming AttireAntique 1890's Stereoview Steroscope Slide Card~black Woman Breast Feeding

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Queen's Brian May is a member of NASA's New Horizon team
Patheos (blog), July 30th

“But I was able to assemble the two images to make the most satisfying stereo view I can ever remember making.” While at first this just seems like a story of someone having it all, no level of rock-star fame by itself qualifies someone to be an...Read more

Art exhibits for the Fremont area
Fremont Tribune, July 30th

Alongside works by Native American artists, stereoviews and photographs from the 19th century portray the indigenous people of the Great Plains as captured through a non-native lens. Admission: Free. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; ...Read more

Current & Coming
Courier-Gazette & Camden Herald, July 29th

Photo by: Dagney C. Ernest The annual juried art show of the Maine Lobster Festival is up in Camden Nation Bank's and other downtown Rockland merchants' windows through the five-day fest. Festival art director Su Johnson, right, with her aunt Janet ...Read more

John McInnis Auctioneers, Amesbury, Massachusetts
Maine Antique Digest, July 29th

Some 70 stereoviews of California and other Western locations, Vermont, and New Hampshire fetched $3000, and an 1880 album of “Photographs of Yosemite Valley and Big Trees of Mariposa County, Cali.” by George Fisk sold for $2280. Fisk, who was ...Read more

Queen Guitarist Brian May is Now a New Horizons Science Collaborator
Smithsonian, July 29th

Astrophysicist Dr. Brian May is recognized during a July 17, 2015 New Horizons science briefing at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. May spent a long birthday weekend with the science team, attending two morning science plenaries, a meeting with the ...Read more

City Hall, 1880
urbanmilwaukee, July 28th

When Henry H. Bennett photographed his stereoviews of Milwaukee from 1879 and for another decade this was a most interesting time to record the city. In the port-Civil War period the population boomed and in the downtown area many of the older...Read more

STEREO-A Peeks Out From Behind the Sun
Slate Magazine (blog), July 26th

Studying the Sun from Earth can be frustrating. From 150 million kilometers away, we can only see one side at a time. Sure, the Sun rotates, so we see the whole thing over the course of about a month, but sometimes you want to see it from different...Read more

Escapes: Oakland's got art and soul
Sacramento Bee, July 24th

Vintage paper products include postcards, trade cards, stereoviews, photographs, labels, brochures and sports memorabilia. When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 1, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 2. Where: Golden Gate Park Hall of Flowers, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way, San ...Read more