H. C. White Company Stereoscopes
Hawley C. White was born in North Bennington, Vermont on December 25, 1847. At age 21 he moved to New York City and formed a partnership with Bernard G. Surdam. Surdam & White as the business was known, was located at 305 Broadway and they sold stereoscopes, views and lenses. In 1874 he moved the business to North Bennington Vermont where he built a factory for the production of stereoscopes. About 1886 the factory burned and White rebuilt the new one more than twice the original size. With the expanded factory he began producing stereographs that were available individually or in boxed sets. The stereographs were called the “Perfec-Stereograph” and were of high quality. In 1907 a three story building was constructed for the mechanized production of stereoviews. The view list exceeded 13,000 views.
White obtained 11 patents in his own name while his son Harrie, DOB 1877, obtained 2 in his own name. An additional 2 patents were issued jointly and one more was issued to Hawley and C. S. Beach making a total of 16 patents for the Company. By 1900 it was a family business with the addition of youngest son Clarence, DOB 1879, as a Company photographer.
White was the largest producer of stereoscopes in the world. His crowning achievement was a prize he won at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. Many of the metal hooded viewers found today will have this emblem stamped in the center of the hood.
White produced stereoscopes for James Davis, Sears & Roebuck, Underwood & Underwood, T. W. Ingersoll and R. Y. Young to name a few. Many viewers will be unmarked and sold by countless other retail firms or sold as promotional items such as breakfast cereal.
Early Model Viewers
Viewers produced from the mid 1870’s to 1883 can be hard to identify and are seldom seen. The stereoscope shown below is marked on the hood with the initials “HW”. It has large lenses that meet in the center which is typical of viewers made in the 1870’s. It has a screw-in handle.
One of the first White stereoscopes, ca; 1870’s Has a green paper hood with “HW” imprint in the center. Note the fat screw-in handle.
The stereographoscope above is on a stand, has the White clip and slide. These were produced in the 1880’s and not patented.
Stereoscopes produced in the early 1880’s can be identified by the brass clip on the card holder. This design will become a standard for 20 years. It will also be found nickel plated. If you see this clip it is a White viewer or not original to your viewer.
Early production viewers before 1883 can also be identified by an unpatented folding handle hinge shown below. It will be found in two variations, one for stereoscopes on a stand (left) and a slightly different model for hand held stereoscopes (right). Some viewers during this period were made with round eyeholes on the inside of a one piece of wood hood. Square lenses were used. Several other manufacturers made similar models until the new style lens board using up to five pieces was developed.
Identification of White stereoscopes made after 1883 can be made by the friction joint handle hinge and again by the brass clip on the card holder.
Stereoscopes were made in a variety of styles from wood with paper hoods to all wood, wood and metal and all metal, some in steel and some in Aluminum. Stereoscopes on stands are rare. As the variety and numbers are large only a few of the more unique viewers will be shown.
An all wood model, ca; 1895.
A Stereo-graphoscope using Patent #401,807 issue April 23, 1889. Found with eye cups in various sizes, in wood, brass or nickel plated. Sold by White and Sears about 1902.
Note the wood eye pieces, wood stop pins and folding wire card holders
Aluminum model with Paris World’s Fair imprint and original storage box. ca; 1900
Wood with aluminum hood, has Eagle and shield imprint. ca; 1903
Late Model Viewers
Viewers produced from about 1907 until White went out of business had some interesting design changes. They will be found with a variety of features and materials from aluminum to steel construction and including some with wood face plates, wood slides and wood card holders to all metal versions. The Art Deco finish on some or all of the parts was very popular and an indicator of this time period. Two of the more unusual ones are displayed below.
This viewer was made of steel with an Art Deco finish of copper and black which was referred to as simulated tortoise shell. The 1900 Paris World's Fair Medallion is in the center of hood. The hood uses Patent #984,055 issued Feb 14, 1911. It has a rare matching table top stand that the viewer slips into which provides a nice angle for viewing.
The last viewer is a rare and special viewer for use with a ringed view pack called the “Wilson System.” The shape of the handle indicates it was available with a wood stand as an option. Note the simulated tortoise shell hood and slide holder for holding the ringed booklets of stereoviews. There is a instruction tag inside of hood and the 1900 Paris World's Fair Medallion in the center of the hood. Patent #984,055 issued Feb 14, 1911.
A “Wilson System” stereo pack containing 10 views of Yellowstone Park. The back of each previous card contains a description of the next view. These were produced on heavy photographic paper and were nicely made. Too bad it came at the end of White’s business as it was a great idea.
The Ingersoll Clip
The last identification change for White viewers was patented by Truman W. Ingersoll of St. Paul, Mn. on August 2, 1904 and assigned to H. C. White Company. This clip will be found on late model viewers after that date and was the only other clip White produced. It is well designed and durable and will be found in silver, black or simulated tortoise shell. It is stamped in the center with the patent date. The Ingersoll clip was used on the two late model viewers shown above.
The H. C. White Company was purchased by Keystone View Company about 1915.
© 2006 - Del Phillips