Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Brief History of the Stereoscope: Stereoviews A-Z


The Stereoscope is a special device used to view photos in 3-D. It was a popular form of entertainment in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1930s, and also used as a teaching tool in classrooms for learning geography, natural history, world events and a wide variety of topics.

The invention was based on English scientist Charles Wheatstone’s research on binocular vision in the 1830s, and predates early photography. Wheatstone experimented with
Holmes Stereoscope
sketched drawings, but as knowledge of photography developed in the 1840s, the technique was applied to photos. The images were called stereographs (or stereograms) in the beginning, and later known as stereoviews.
 
Here is how the stereoscope works. Two identical photos, arranged side by side on card stock, are viewed through the stereoscope as two and half inches apart (or the distance between the eyes) through the viewer's lense/mirror hooded assembly (on left in picture). The eye sees a 3-D image.

It was not until the Great Exhibition in 1851 that stereoscopes and stereoviews became known to the general public. Queen Victoria in England was fascinated with the invention, and influenced its mass production. One company, the London Stereoscopic Company, sold half a million stereoviews between 1854 and 1856.

In the U.S., author and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes invented a hand-held stereoscope viewer in 1861 that was more economical. With further improvements by Joseph L. Bates (a Boston merchant), the Holmes viewer was soon a common item in Victorian homes all across America.

The stereoscope lost its appeal in the 1930s with the advent of silent film and radio. In the 1950s, it made a comeback with the ViewMaster, a type of stereoscope for children that can still be purchased in stores. And of course . . . there are 3-D movies and television today.



Interesting information for collectors:
http://taggart.glg.msu.edu/stereo/holmes.htm (how to make modern stereoviews)
http://www.stereoworld.org/index.php (National Stereoscope Association; publications, worldwide organizations, and information on workshops and conventions) 

Other Sources:
http://cnx.org/content/m13784/latest/
http://www.stereoviewmadness.com/stereoviewmadness.com/The_Stereoview.html
http://home.centurytel.net/s3dcor/index.html
http://yellowstonestereoviews.com/publishers/neweducational.html
http://yellowstonestereoviews.com/publishers/cosmopolitan.html
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA03/staples/stereo/stereographs.html

  Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl; Gravseth family archive

37 comments:

  1. Not everything we see is what it seems, I wish they covered interesting stuff like this in my history classes as a kid :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Boy isn't that the truth? Good observation. History was terribly boring in high school as I recall. It's more fun exploring on your own! Thanks, Ida!

      Delete
  2. I think I had a viewmaster when I was a kid! It's those red thingies with the switch on the side, right? I loved that thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup. I bought one for my grandkids and I think it sits at the bottom of the toy box now. Too much competition with current stuff. Still, some people make stereoviews out of modern photos, which I think would be fun. People actually travel to conventions to show off their old and 'new' stereoviews. Thanks, Kellie!

      Delete
  3. Very interesting facts. I don't think my children even know what this is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're right! See above comment. But life changes and so do forms of entertainment. Good to hear back, Miranda!

      Delete
  4. Very interesting! I didn't realize that the viewmaster had an even cooler ancestor. :)

    TaMara
    Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't either. I enjoyed finding this out. Good to hear from you again, TeMara.

      Delete
  5. We have a modern-day (well, 1960's anyway!) version of this up in the loft somewhere. Our kids were fascinated with it during the 1980's - just goes to show this hasn't lost it's charm!

    BTW - Thanks for calling by my blog earlier, on the A-Z blog-hop! :-)

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!

    Twitter - @Librarymaid

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sue! Enjoyed your post and blog. Maybe you can pull it out for the grandchildren? Mine weren't interested, but you never know.

      Delete
  6. What a fascinating post. I owned a stereoscope for a while, and a couple of cards, but now I can't remember what happened to it. IT was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, only two cards? I have 69, so I'm pretty vested in the collection whether I want to be or not. Just didn't want them to sit in boxes for another 50 years. Thanks and good to hear from you!

      Delete
  7. Wow, Sharon, this was so interestingly written. You held me to the end. I love learning new things. Of course, I've had the ViewMaster as a child and later for my children. I had been mesmerized by and loved looking at the 3-D pictures. On the other hand, my children were not so impressed as they had color TV, and the start of games (I forgot the name) on TV. Then came Playstation, XBOX, computers, and the list goes on for gadgets to occupy their time.
    I still love looking at the ViewMaster. I have seen some of the older versions in museums, and in movies.

    A+ for this post. I loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I know what you mean about lack of interest. There is too much competition for this very 'quiet' activity. Kids today demand more action and stimulation, and it's hard to compete with television and computers. But for a time the stereoscope served an important need. Really appreciate your comment and visit, Kathy!

      Delete
  8. Very interesting post! I enjoyed reading this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sherry. Thank you! Love your garden post!

      Delete
  9. Interesting topic. It is fun to learn about the history of technology, especially when we now live in a world of "everything in an instant." Hi, I am a new follower from the A to Z challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And technology is still changing, isn't it? Nice to meet you, Melissa:) Thanks a lot for the follow!

      Delete
  10. Interesting. I never knew about this, or maybe I've heard of it just under a different name.
    Anyway, very informative post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nadica. It took me by surprise too. A pleasure to meet you :) I'm hopping over to your blog next.

      Delete
  11. I'm alsways amazed by the different themes people choose on this challenge. I have never heard of stereoscopes before, what a great invention especially considering the time then.

    Thank you for visiting my blog!
    Marcie @ Marcie's Postbox

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for your visit, Marcie. I'm impressed with all the themes, too, and your postcard site is really amazing. Stop back and join next time :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I remember seeing something like this on Little House on the Prarie. I didn't know that it gave 3D images. That is crazy.

    You have picked a very interesting theme.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting background. I remember the Viewmaster but didn't know the history. Thanks for sharing!

    Mary Montague Sikes

    ReplyDelete
  15. My grandmother had a stereoscopic viewer and various of the photos/images. Now I'm wishing that I'd grabbed them when I had the opportunity, but I was somewhat younger than I am now. Fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
  16. My grandkids weren't impressed with the viewmaster either, but they sure like their Kindle Fires.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Sharon, what a fascinating and informative post! Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I had a viewmaster as a kid, and I loved it! I still remember all the Disney pictures I used to look at.

    This is fascinating information about the stereoscope, Sharon! I love learning new things, so THANK YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jai and Mary, Diana and Cathy, Linda and Kim. Thank you for your comments!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Absolutely fascinating. Aren't human being (well, some of them!) clever :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ha-ha. Aren't they though? Funny thing about inventions in the 19th and early 20th century. So much was being invented or worked on at the same time. And they learned so much from each other. (Kind of like bloggers :) Thanks Wendy from downunder!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Cool! I never got to use a real one, but the little red ones for kids were something I loved. My son's teacher has one of those in the classroom, and my son just loves it.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh that's interesting your son loves the ViewMaster and a teacher has one. They give such a unique perspective. Appreciate your comment, Shannon!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sometimes I see those stereoscope slides for sale on shopgoodwill.com.

    Popped by from the AtoZ Challenge.

    thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've seen them on e-bay and at auction sites. Value differs a lot. Thanks for stopping by Tami!

      Delete
  25. Fascinating Sharon. I read each of your A-Z posts. I didn't know what a Stereoscope was.
    How lucky you are to have inherited them.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Sharon. Sometimes we inherit things like this and they sit in a box for the rest of life. I knew they would be lost to my family if I didn't put them on display. As it turns out, others are enjoying them too. I couldn't be more pleased!

    ReplyDelete

"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...