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    

Vintage Stereoscope Photograph Viewer Perfecscope Underwood Eagle Marking PhotoAntique Original Glass Stereoview Erotic Art 2 Naked Nudes On Bed Girls 1900s1907 Duncan Macdonald Flathead Indian Montana N. A. Forsyth StereoviewExposition-universelle 1900 Paris World's Fair Stereoscope Hc White W/ Slides +Erotic Art 2 Artistic Nudes 1900s Antique Original Glass Stereoview Naked GirlsJack Hillers. Native American View. Ma-nu-ni With Mormon And Gentile SpectatorsWalbridge Hood Stereoscope, No Markings, Embossed Design On Aluminum HoodRare Stereoview Of The Photographic Gallery At The 1862 Exhibition5682: Group Lot Of 12 Tissue Paper Hold To Light Stereoview Card Photos Military1907 Sampson Of The Flathead Indians Montana N. A. Forsyth Stereoview1900's Butte Montana Copper Mine Miners Drilling In Tunnel Stereoview ForsythJack Hillers. Native American View. U-in-tats Indian Girl On HorsebackLot Of 99 Vintage Stereopticon Stereograph View Cards - Slides Stereo PhotosDiableries Tissue View. Un Square En Enfer3 Stereoscope Stereo Viewers For Repair Or RestorationC1885 Carlton Watkins Stereo View Los Angeles Street1880's Sv Stereoview Williamsport Indiana Railroad Depot & Elevator Wabash RouteCa.1900 Baseball Game At Castle Gate, Utah By O.p. Huish Of PaysonStereoview Enfield Garden Shaker Village Lebanon New Hampshire Nh New Orleans World’s Fair 1884 Cotton Centennial Expo Black Folks Edward L WestonThe War Photograph And Exhibiton Co, 471. Fair Oaks Station, Va.1902 Stereoview Card - Modern Fire Fighters - Philadelphia, PaStereoview Card: The Famous Rough Riders Coming To Camp1900's Flathead Indian Mothers & Baby In Decorated Papoose Stereoview MontanaCa.1880 Las Vegas New Mexico Scene By J.g. Evans - Wood Haulers At Local HomeNew York Broadway From Barnum’s Museum City Hall Park ~1860 J49Diableries Tissue View. Salle De Jeu Chez SatanAntique Stereoview, San Miguel Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico, By Henry BrownAntique Stereoview, Semi-nude Lady Sitting On Bench, Imr Co.Original 19th Cent. Tissue Stereoview Paris Police Dept France, Fire, 'b.k.'Very Rare N.a. Forsyth Rocky Mountains Scene Butte MontanaThe War Photograph And Exhibiton Co, 918. Collecting Remains Of The Dead.Stereoview- Highland House, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, MaVintage Keystone #40 3d Stereo Viewer Stereoscope, 6 Sets Of Viewing CardsAlfred Briquet. Early Mexican Scene At GuadalupeAntique Photo Stereoview South Portland, Maine ~shoe Factory & Lumber YardC 1880 Stereoviews Dealer Lot Flea Market White Mountains Mt. Washington 11 PicsSad Post Mortem Stereoview Of A Baby By Alessandri Of RomeMontreal Winter Carnival Ice Palace Feb. 4 1884 Canada By C Bierstadt J631900's Butte Montana Senator William Clark Stewart Copper Mine StereoviewAlbumen Stereoview Park Hotel Clear Lake Iowa W Patrons Real Photo H S MatherAntique Stereoview, Missouri River From Wyandotte County, KansasPresident Harding & Umatilla Indians Meachem Oregon StereoviewPresident Elect Herbert Hoover1870's A.g Emery Stereoview Chippewa Indians Jack Lapetis Marquette Michigan1900 Boca Del Monte Veracruz Mexico Railroad Tunnel Stereoview A. BriquetAntique 3-d Viewer And 33 View CardsVintage Photos - 1900 Paris Exposition Souvenir - Stereoviews Paris ScenesEarly 20th Century Risque French Semi-nude Stereoview #15Jack Hillers. Native American View. Shi-rah-rah. Wife Of To-ka-wah-nerJack Hillers. Native American View. U-in-ta-utes. The Boy In The CedarAntique Stereoscope Viewer + 38 Assorted Stereoviews 1800's & Early 1900's1926 Ohio Man With Car Auto Photo Homemade StereoviewWilliam England Stereoview Of The Lake At GenevaAnthony View Of Broadway, New York, From Barnum's MuseumRay Stoddard Glens Falls Ny Stereoview Caldwell From Crosbyside Lake George NyFirst Cliff House San Francisco Ca & Seal Rock Bierstadt Stereoview C1890Montreal Mountain Canada Mansion On Hill Canada ~1870 Kilburn Bros. J57Antique Stereoview, Kansas City Bridge, By Kissel & Shannon 1871Tientsin China War Scene Dead Bodies 1901 Underwood Chinese Stereoview

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

Jefferson Street, 1873
urbanmilwaukee, December 9th

Jeff Beutner is a collector of photographs, postcards and stereoviews of old Milwaukee. This column features these images, with historical commentary by Beutner. Share on Facebook; Share on Google+; Share on LinkedIn; Share on Reddit; Share on Twitter ...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

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