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    

Large Collection Of 600 Antique Glass Plate Stereoview Stereoscope Negatives Antique Keystone Paragon Stereoscope Viewer W 135 Asst Stereoview Cards1942 Vintage Sawyer's View-master Round Viewer W/30 Color Reels W/box & Inst.1899 Rpsv John Clum Dental Toothache Dentist Aspirin Alaska Miner AnestheticBoxed Set Of Egypt Stereoviews Cairo To The Pyramids UnderwoodVintage Stereoscope Stereoviewer 3d Antiqued Stereopticon With Retro Stereoviews Gettysburg - Little Round Top & Big Round Top - 1863 Anthony Yellow Mount 1905 Scarce Antique Glyphoscope Type 1 J. Richard Stereo Camera 3-d PhotographyRare Special View-master Demonstration ReelKeystone View Company Stereo Card Reader Meadville, Pa StereoscopeBrass Band In Civil War Uniforms Tuba Trumpet Bugle Drummer Outdoor StereoviewStereo-travel, India 100 Complete Box-set Stereoscope Cards 1908 - Sterioview1863 Gardner Gallery Stereoview - Gen'l. Meade's Staff, Friends & Hangers-onGettysburg - Mcpherson's Woods Looking South July 15 1863 - Anthony Yellow MountJuly 6, 1863 Gettysburg Stereoview By O'sullivan - View Around Trostle HouseVintage Stereoview ~ Photography Camp On Glacier Mountain ~ Yosemite CaliforniaAntique Stereoview Stereoscope 1904 With 329 Cards From 1890s-1907-rareAntique Box-type Wood & Glass Stereoscopic Table Top Viewer *free S&h Usa*Original Large Lot Of 270 Mixed Scenes Stereoview Cards Stereo ViewUnderwood Stereoviews Stereoscope Cards Photos Trip Around World Box Of 69 CardsVintage Stereoview ~ Steam Engine In Snow Shed ~ Central Pacific Railroad ~ Ca4 Ny Sanitary Fair Stereoviews Inc Muybridge Mount6 Ny Metropolitan Sanitary Fair (civil War) StereoviewsLot Of 2 1895 Underwood Perfecscope Stereoscope Birdseye Maple 3-d StereoviewOriginal Civil War Stereoview Prof. Lowe Balloon E & H T Anthony Vintage Stereoviews Stereoscopes 3d Antiqued Nude Risque Stereopticon Card LotA.j. Russell Union Pacific Railroad Stereoscopic View Wasatch Station Ca.1870s'Antique Photo Stereoview Ward Family Tent Martha's Vineyard Wesleyan Camp GroundH M Swasey Newburyport Mass Stereoview Building With Sign Harbor Ships Ft George Island, Florida Fl Stereoview, PostcardBerkshire Knitting Mills Reading Pa. Stereo Card Set & ViewerExc ~1870s Mora Cabinet Photo, Actress Mary Anderson Face Close-up, Lace VeilsLot Of 2 Colorado Vintage Antique Stereoviews 4" X 7"Adams Photo Antique Stereoview Martha's Vineyard Cottage People On Porch Vintage Stereoview ~ Snow Sheds ~ Central Pacific Railroad ~ California1860 Glass Plate Stereoview Of Buchanon's White House By Franklin WhiteAntique Set 100 Palestine Stereographic Cards In Original Box-keystone ViewVintage Stero Graphic Volume 1 And 2 Keystone Senic America 100 PicturesWilliam Grundy Arab Tent Scene Rugs Man With Gun Circa 1858 Hand ColouredOriginal Lot Of 92 Italy Stereoview Cards Stereo View1876 Centennial Exposition Stereoview Brownfield & Son Staffordshire Cobridge1904 De Lawd Will Pahvide Black Americana Stereoview Racist Antique Real Photo(2) A.c. Mcintyre Stereoviews Thousands Islands, Alexandria Bay 1000 Islands 10(2) A.c. Mcintyre Stereoviews Thousands Islands, Alexandria Bay 1000 Islands 11Antique H C White Stereoview Photo China Funeral Procession 1876 Centennial Exposition Photo Stereoview Dorman Mfg. 178 & Grand St. N.y. NyStereotypical Stereoview Darling Little Butt Naked Black American Negro Boys San Diego California Stereoview By Parker C1870sStereoview Civil War Photographer Mathew Brady William Grundy Arab Tent Scene Rugs With Figures Circa 1858 Hand ColouredOrange City Florida, Fl Buggy, People. Stereoview, PostcardHibernia Florida, Fl Fleming House, Near Jacksonville, Fl On St John's RiverAntique Homemade Stereoview Civil War Soldiers Downtown Fowlerville Michigan MiNew Guinea ~ Man-eaters Bring In Their Prey ~ Cannibal Stereoview 15998 #11508Original Lot Of 58 France Stereoview Cards Stereo ViewOriginal Lot Of 35 England Stereoview Cards Stereo ViewNice Lot Of 27 Old Stereo Cards- Americana- Ny, Chicago, Dc, Etc. Lot 128Vintage Stereoviews Stereoscopes 3d Old Antiqued Civil War Stereopticon Card Lot(2) A.c. Mcintyre Stereoviews Thousands Islands, Alexandria Bay 1000 Islands #8Antique 1860s Marquette Michigan Stereoview Viewcard Stereo Card Boat Ship

Recent News: Stereoview Photographs

Source: Google News

Lynnfield history up for auction
Daily Item, August 30th

child chairs and toys, Wedgewood, Jasperware, Belleek, prints, stereo views, postcards, ephemera, mission furniture, canes and walking sticks. There is also a wonderful selection of hundreds of pieces of estate jewelry removed from the safe deposit...Read more

Internationaler Musik-Flair: 16 tolle Bands bei „Pell-Mell“
Nassauische Neue Presse, August 25th

Komplettiert und harmonisch vollendet wird das diesjährige Line-Up durch „The Bandgeek Mafia“ (Ska-Punk), „Buffet of Fate“ (ElectroBungaBungaDiscoPartyMetal), „Stereoview“ (Alternative Punk-Rock) sowie „Johanna & Fabio“ (Akustik-Set). Auf dem ...Read more

Community news Aug. 23, 2014
The Keene Sentinel, August 23rd

Based on Boas' collection of postcards and stereoviews begun more than a decade ago, the book was completed for publication in conjunction with Walpole's 2014 Old Home Days celebration. The postcards and stereoviews, with historical captions, are ...Read more

The Plankinton House Hotel, 1869
urbanmilwaukee, August 19th

The American House opened its door in 1843, three years before this city was incorporated, on the site of the present Plankinton Arcade. It was the second hotel in the city according to the voluminous 1881 History of Milwaukee. The first illustration...Read more

Back in time: Photographer John M. Kuhn
Stillwater Gazette, August 8th

He took all types of photographs, which included stereo views, which he sold out of his studio. He received many orders from across the county, even from the Holman English Opera Company, which the local paper stated, “speaks well for our young artist.”...Read more

Morpho works to counter ID document forgery
Security Document World (press release), August 8th

An optical lens structure is integrated in the polycarbonate card body to create the stereo view. Morpho says it only needs a single photo of the document holder in the usual formal, compliant with ICAO-guidelines. Special software turns the photo into...Read more

Newhall House, 1883, After the Fire
urbanmilwaukee, August 5th

It would be replaced by another landmark building to be featured in our column for next week. Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner...Read more