Introduction to Stereoviews
A stereograph viewer is used to create the Binocular Vision that results in a 3D experience.
In 1838, Sir Charles Wheatstone published a paper in the British Royal Society on the Theory of Binocular Vision. Wheatstone used two drawings of the same topic, just drawn slightly different, and then viewed them together through a lens in a box. His research showed that because each eye receives a different view, the mind integrates the images and perceives an object in three dimension when the individual drawings are looked at simultaneously. His ideas were furthered by Henry Fox Talbot and a Mr. Collen, who in 1839 began using the newly invented daguerreotypes as opposed to hand drawings.
The first public exhibit of the technology was shown at the International Exhibit of London at the Crystal Palace in 1851. Queen Victoria was totally enamored. America was introduced to stereo views in 1854. Oliver Wendell Holmes invented a viewer that was cheap and portable in 1859. The stereo view sensation was like television was in the 20th century -everybody had some cards and a viewer. The technology peaked in the 1870’s and remained popular through to the invention of moving pictures, and then began to fade.
The earliest images commonly used in stereoscopy were taken with fragile glass plates in boxy cameras. Images could only be taken outdoors in sunlight and processed and printed in darkness. Copyrights were fairly non-existent, and because of the difficulty in exposing and processing the images, photographers sometimes pirated others images as their own. (Strangely, as photographic processes became easier, the copying actually became more common!) There were, however, many reputable photographers and publishers. The subject areas photographed and developed into stereographs were only limited by the contemporaneous level of technology and the creativity and imagination of the photographer.