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

Source: Google News

Yesterday's Milwaukee
urbanmilwaukee, December 17th

The photographer for this stereoview was William H. Sherman, who was one of the most prolific photographers of the city, as I've previously written. Sherman took a nearly identical view a few years earlier before the Presbyterian church was replaced by...Read more

Orbit GT Releases Orbit Softcopy version 11
Amerisurv, December 4th

With the seamless connectivity between 2D view and stereo view, it redefines the standard way of vectorization, syncing 2D and stereo instantly and providing access to the 2D and stereo interactive tools simultaneously. This provides an extremely fast ...Read more

Beyond the Dark Veil – beautifully macabre collection of Victorian post-mortem ...
Boing Boing, December 3rd

The book also serves as a fascinating survey of late 19th century imaging technologies, with hand-colored photographs, albumen prints, ambrotypes, cabinet cards, carte de viste, daguerreotypes, gelatin silver prints, opaltypes, photo postcards...Read more

Odd Wisconsin: Wolves Plagued first Madison residents
Madison.com, December 3rd

A stereoview of the state Capitol, without a dome, in 1868 shows the surrounding woods 20 years after wolves were eradicated. A stereoview of the state Capitol, without a dome, in 1868 shows the surrounding woods 20 years after wolves were eradicated...Read more

Five questions for Pat Ritzert
Troy Record, November 29th

The Friends of the Saratoga Springs Public Library is a non-profit organization consisting of 375 members. The Friends mission is to support one of Saratoga Springs greatest assets, the Library. We have sponsored programs for the staff and volunteers...Read more

Back-to-Back Sales for John McInnis
Maine Antique Digest, November 25th

A lot that included stereoviews and the viewer sold for $6658.50, and a Chippendale chest-on-chest was $2530. The sternboard from the fishing vessel Quannapowitt, which was salvaged in 1915, sold for $747.50. Dr. Donovan maintained his medical office ...Read more

Market Square, Late 1860s
urbanmilwaukee, November 19th

Market Square today is largely a memory, a casualty of the widening of Water and Wells streets. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by...Read more

Opera Optics: Aussie Icon Wows in Stereo View
NBCNews.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