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Catalog Data

Wood, leather, glass
5 × 14 1/2 × 7 in. (12.7 × 36.8 × 17.8 cm)
Photographic equipment
ca. 1900
Victorian (1837-1901)
Wood stereoscope with leather and glass elements.
Label Text:
A stereoscope or stereo viewer is a device used for viewing a pair of stereoscopic, separate images mounted on a stereograph card. These images depict a left-eye and right-eye view of the same scene hosted on a card that when viewed through a stereoscope appear as a single three-dimensional image. This apparatus consisted of two prismatic lenses and a wooden extension, which held the stereo card at the correct distance from the viewer. The lenses made the image appear larger and more distant, as well as shifting their position so that the two images fuse into one stereo window. A view-limiting feature such as a divider is usually present on stereoscopes to prevent each eye by being distracted by the image intended for the other eye.
Sir David Brewster debuted his lenticular stereoscope at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in England. Brewster is credited as the inventor of the stereoscope and stereographs intended for use by the general public. Oliver Wendell Holmes made further contributions to the stereoscope by introducing a handheld stereoscopic viewer in 1861 that was both streamlined and more economical than had what had previously been available. The hype over this novel form of entertainment led to an industry in producing images for public consumption. Stereographs, stereoviews, stereo cards, and stereo pairs were produced and sold by the thousands. They usually included the pair of images on piece of cardstock of cardboard, along with some explanatory text. Stereographers traveled the world to capture images that would appear in 3D back home on the Victorian parlor. Subjects included famous people and places, historic events, dramatic recreations, beautiful settings, and flower arrangements, among other things. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, viewing stereographs was a popular form of entertainment in Victorian homes. Almost as common as a television set is today, each American home typically had a collection of stereographs and a hand-held or table-stand stereoscope through which to view them.
stereoscopes  Search this
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Victorian  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens