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 CaseLot 4 Victorian Wood & Aluminum Stereoviewers Stereo Viewers1860's General Ulysses S Grant Civil War Stereoview Photo Portrait By Gurney1860's General Ulysses S Grant Civil War Stereoview Photo Portrait By BradyKeystone Stereoviews Tour Of World Set Volume 1&2 U.s. Europe Asia Canada OthersOriginal Antique 1900s Stereoscope Viewer With Card Of London, Ptd 1904Civil War Stereoview. Turret Uss Monitor Passaic. Charleston Fort SumpterAntique Early Unmounted Civil War Stereoview Of Battle Of NashvilleVtg Bakelite Tru Vue Stereoscope Viewer And 12 Geographic Film Rolls Wood Case100 Keystone Stereographic Scenic America Through Stereoscope Cards In BoxAntique Stereoview Viewer W/ Lot Of 60 + View Cards Keystone View Co. Ww1 Look!Antique Keystone Stereoscope With 98 Cards War Military ScenesAntique Early Unmounted Civil War Stereoview Of Lookout MountainAntique Early Unmounted Civil War Stereoview Of Battlefield Before PetersburgShaker Stereoview, Group Of Shakers, Mt. Lebanon Troy N.y. By James IrvingAntique Wood Stereoscope 3d Viewer With 13 Steroviews Cards Good ConditionAntique Early Unmounted Civil War Stereoview Of The Ruins Of Succession HallStereoview-bristol, St. Augustine's Gateway By Dutton Of BathRare Santa Fe New Mexico Oversize Stereoview, The Plaza Antique Stereoview Card #4662 "baseball Boston Common", Colored Kilburn Bros.Vintage Keystone Televiewer Stereoscope With StandStereoview International Exhibition 1862 Chinese Court Emperors Palace No203 中国! Toystamp & 1920's Vintage Stereo Viewer With Slides~1890s Stereoview, Il Elgin Watch Factory Exterior Buildings1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Street Garfield Political Wisconsin By Billings Stereoview-bristol, Redcliff Church And Monument By Sedgfield's English SceneryAntique Underwood & Underwood Stereoscope (pat Date 1881)Vintage Stereoscope Viewer For Parts Or Repair Oil City Pa Pennsylvania Venango County Town View 1860s Stereoview PhotoWsa9432 U&u 28 Busy Karakeui Street Galata Constantinople Turkey DNew York City South Ferry Omnibuses 1859 E. Anthony Stereoview PhotoSt. John Nb New Brunswick Canada King Street 1860s Stereoview PhotoTissue Stereoview: Dancing Girls Are Too Much For This Guy!24 Vtg Tru Vue Stereoscope Geographic Location Film Strip Rolls In Wood Case1878 Fireman Ithaca Ny "honors" StereoviewSanta Monica California W/ Roller Coaster Beach Cars StereoviewWilliam England Alpine Club Series 151 Stereoviews Switzerland Alps Savoy MoreTowanda Pa Pennsylvania Bradford County Court House 1860s Stereoview PhotoHolland Early View Of Rotterdam Waterfront, Boats & WindmillsThompson Stereoview Of Wreck Of The M K & T Railroad At Schell City Mo Oct 1881Stereocard View From Lvrr - Mauch Chunk Switchback Rr - M.a. Kleckner (2)Keystone Handheld Stereoscope Monarch Stereoscopic Stereoviewer Presidents WarAntique Stereoscope Slide Viewer With CardsWaldoboro, Maine Harbor Scene Stereoview By LaneHolmes Stereoscope Collection - 2 Viewers And 41 Original CardsWsa9433 U&u 29 Horse Trolley In Galata’s Crooked Streets Constantinople Turkey DWsa9451 Greek/turkey War Demonstration Before Palace After Army Defeat Greece DSt. John Nb New Brunswick Canada King Street & Bell Tower 1860s Stereoview PhotoProvincetown Ma Massachusetts Cape Cod Beached Whale 1870s Stereoview Photo #21860s Stereoview 47th Street West From 5th Avenue New York City E&ht Anthony NrStereoview-italy/italia, De Nice A Genes Par La Corniche-oneglia,le Cap De MilleVintage Tru-vue Stereoscope + Seven Film Rolls 1940s With BoxUnion Army Veterans Or Gar Men At Parade In Keene, N.h. - Taken By J.a. French 1870s Railroad Stereoview #135 Jacob's Ladder Mt. Washington New Hampshire. 1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings . #31870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Erskine's Residence House Wisconsin By Billings . #51870s Railroad Stereoview #693 Train On Mt. Washington New Hampshire. Kilburn1864 Stereoview #132 The Flume. Lincoln Nh New Hampshire. H.s. Fifield1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings 1870s Racine Wi Stereoview. Tornado Disaster. Wisconsin By Billings . #2

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Facebook's Oculus Buys Israeli Hand-Motion Firm
EE Times, July 27th

Oculus VR is the developer of the Oculus Rift virtual reality system that comes in the form of a ski-mask with twin displays to provide a stereo view of the an alternative world. In March 2014 Facebook announced it would acquire Oculus VR for about...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

Art exhibits for the Fremont area
Fremont Tribune, July 23rd

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

Elias Friend Residence, 1879
urbanmilwaukee, July 21st

When Henry Hamilton Bennett first began photographing Milwaukee stereoviews in about 1879 several of his earliest views were of prominent residences. The Plankinton and Mitchell mansions were among these, but Bennett was also looking for the latest ...Read more

Fire Fighters in Dress Suits, 1880
urbanmilwaukee, July 14th

Around 1880 Bennett would not only photograph the front of Engine House # 1 and its Italianate 1873 structure, but he would also photograph this more interesting stereoview of the fire fighters. As its name suggests, this was the first fire station...Read more

In Brief: What to Expect from New Horizons This Week
Discover Magazine (blog), July 13th

6:59 a.m. EDT: In its “First Look A” downlink, the New Horizons team will receive initial data, including the best single-frame photo of Charon, a stereo view of Pluto, and the best image of the small moon Hydra. 3 p.m. EDT: NASA TV will host a media...Read more

The Sale of Wes and Shelley Cowan's Stereoviews
Maine Antique Digest, July 1st

To look at just the monetary results of the sale of Wes and Shelley Cowan's stereoview collection, sold by Cowan's Auctions in Cincinnati on March 30, is to understand only half the picture—like gazing into a stereoviewer and finding the image can be...Read more