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

NASA shares high resolution images of dwarf planet Ceres
Dispatch Times, August 30th

Throughout the second mapping observations, it will point its camera a little back and to the left, rather than straight down, providing provide stereo views from which scientists can construct 3-D views of the alien terrain. The quality of the...Read more

Alexandria/Mount Vernon Weekend Fun: Aug. 28-Sept. 6
Virginia Connection Newspapers, August 27th

To view the historic stereoview images as well as the modern 3-D anaglyphs, visit www.mountvernon.org/3D. #“Not-So-Modern” Jazz Quartet Performance. Thursdays through Dec. 31, 7:30-10 p.m. at St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mount Vernon Ave. Not So ...Read more

Dawn Journal: Mapping Ceres
The Planetary Society (blog), August 22nd

This will effectively yield stereo views, which when combined will make those flat images pop into full three dimensionality. In its first mapping cycle, which is taking place now, the explorer aims its instruments straight down. For the second, it...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

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

Mars Stereo View from 'John Klein' to Mount Sharp -- Raw
NASA, April 23rd

Mars Stereo View from 'John Klein' to Mount Sharp -- Raw. Left and right eyes of the Navigation Camera (Navcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took the dozens of images combined into this stereo scene of the rover and its surroundings. The component ...Read more

Opportunity Overlooking Endeavour Crater, Stereo View
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This stereo view from the navigation camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a vista across Endeavour Crater, with the rover's own shadow in the foreground. The view spans 216 compass degrees, from north at the left to ...Read more

Stereographs, or stereo views, and cards vary in value
azcentral, March 8th

From the 1850s through the 1930s, stereographs — or stereo views as they were more popularly known — were produced by the millions in this country. During the Victorian era, a viewer and a stack of cards graced almost every front parlor in America...Read more