Table of Contents



Sir Charles Wheatstone, 1802 - 1875


A Brief Stereoscopic History


At one time the stereoscope and view cards were found in every American home. From 1850 until World War I, the stereoscope allowed our forefathers to visit every corner of America and the world. It provides us with a three dimensional historical record of those 70 years.

The first stereoscope viewer was created in 1833 by Sir Charles Wheatstone a British inventor. Because photography was unknown at the time, drawings were used. By 1850 crude stereoscopes and glass views were available. Tintypes, Albumen, Daguerreotypes and flat mount paper Stereographs soon followed. Sir David Brewster invented a box shaped viewer that was popular at the time.

In 1859, Oliver Wendell Holmes developed a compact, hand-held viewer and Joseph L. Bates of Boston made improvements and manufactured them. With advances in photography a new industry and form of entertainment was created.

Stereo pictures are taken by means of a camera with two lenses. This provides two separate pictures 2.5 inches apart, about the distance between the eyes. Although the pictures appear the same, they are not. When looked at in a viewer, which has prismatic lenses, your eyes will blend the two views into one and the brain perceives it in three dimensions the same as normal vision.

Rapid transportation, radio, movies and other forms of entertainment created the demise of the stereoscope and by 1920 only one company survived.

2006 - Del Phillips