Surdam and White, 305 Broadway, New York City was a well known firm dealing in stereoscopes and views. It was a partnership of Bernard G. Surdam, (dob 1848) and Hawley C. White. Hawley C. White was born in North Bennington, Vermont on December 25, 1847. he moved to New York when he was 21 years old. Clues as to the ownership of the trademark "American Lens" are found in issues of The Weekly Trade Circular.
"Surdam & White, manufacturers of stereoscopes are now meeting with gratifying success they so much deserve. During the French war they saw the necessity of stereoscope lens manufacturing in the United States, and could scarcely supply their customers with stereoscopes through the scarcity of lenses at the time. They introduced machinery and secured help from abroad for manufacturing lenses. At the time they made only three dozen a week, and now they are pleased to state they have increased their facilities to run out 80 dozen per week, which enables them to sell stereoscopes at the most favorable prices."
In their advertising they state that they are the only manufacturer of American Lenses which are far superior to all others. I believe that "American Lens" became their trademark. The trademark used on their views was "American Views"
Surdam & White also made stereographoscopes which are shown in the following advertisement. The size of the viewer and large lens determined the price. Also shown is a stereoscope on a stand. Note the address changes.
White left the business in 1875 to form his own successful company in North Bennington, Vermont. Surdam moved to Bennington shortly thereafter and likely participated in the company.
The patent date mark.
Henry Dorr, b. 1818 in Bavaria, resided in Manhattan, New York City. Dorr considered himself a cabinet maker and he was issued patent # 151,576 on June 2, 1874 for a new style lens board that was made with multiple pieces and may or may not contain a rim that the hood would but up against. Although he was not the first to use multi part lens boards he was the first to patent it. Prior to 1874 most lens boards were one piece and did not have a rim. After this invention almost everyone changed to this style, no doubt without compensation to the inventor. It is not known if Dorr was a manufacturer and seller of stereoscopes or if he was in someone else's employ.
American Lens stereoscopes are quite common and will be found in both hand held styles and on stands. Most would have paper hoods but wood hooded models were also produced at various prices as shown in the sales advertisement above. It is amazing that a stereoscope on a stand sold for only 75 cents. The patent date is stamped on the lens board which was the part that was patented. The date June 2d, 1874 is pressed on the top piece of the lens board. Usually you can determine the month and year clearly, but the day has a "d" following the number 2 which leads to some confusion.
Trademark and other markings are at the end of the banjo in two styles. The first is a curved "American Lenses". The second has a curved "American Lens" over a straight "Trademark" then under that the word "Stereoscope". Another distinguishing mark is the hand symbol shown below. A few early stereoscopes had no hands at all. The hands will always be on both the crossbar and the banjo or none at all. If you have only one hand someone has swapped either the banjo or the crossbar.
Another standard feature on viewers with a stand is the hinge mount. Any other style is a replacement. The spindle and stands were also standardized as shown. Any other configuration is a replacement.
All American Lens stereoscopes had this crossbar clip. I believe it was made by the Lewis Company located nearby, the hinge hardware may have also come from the same source.
And the final photo is of a hand held model with a wood hood. There are at least two different handle styles.
© 2006 - Del Phillips
Rev 2 - 10-20-2007