Classic Camera Collectors Club
Informatif website of Frank Lakiere

1. 3D- en stereophotography : Charles Wheatstone

2. Stereocards 3. Stereocards from my collection

4. Stereoviewers with positive film 5. List of my VIEW-MASTER reels and sets

1. 3D- and stereophotography

Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875)

Charles Wheatstone was one of the leading electrical engineers of the mid-nineteenth century, and began his career in the family musical instrument firm where studying the workings of musical instruments gave him a taste for physics.
He was responsible for the introduction of the electrical telegraph where his scientific understanding enabled him to turn it into a practical technology.
Charles Wheatstone was interested in musical instruments and their acoustics throughout his life. Parallel to these musical research he was working variously on typewriters, electromagnetic clocks, pitch measuring devices, and of course, the concertina and its prototypes as well as the electric telegraph which became his major life's work.
There was no period in his life when he concentrated on just one particular subject, and throughout his life he constantly returned to work on various improvements to the concertina and related devices.
He also invented two new devices to measure and regulate electrical resistance and current: the Rheostat and the Wheatstone bridge.
Though nominally professor of natural philosophy at King's College, London, he seldom lectured after 1840, and indeed was an indifferent teacher. He suffered through life from an almost morbid timidity in presence of an audience.
Wheatstone had a lifelong friendship with the scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), and due to Wheatstone's intense shyness, Faraday usually delivered Charles's lectures for him at the Royal Institution.

Since 1832 Wheatstone was experimenting with simple stereoscopic drawings (geometric 3D-drawings) and in 1838 he made a so-called reflecting mirror stereoscope to view them.
This technique proved that stereo perception was a result of binocular vision. Wheatstone's actual stereoscope is preserved at the Science Museum in London.
In 1849 Sir David Brewster described a binocular camera, and the first stereoscopic photographs began to be produced.

Wheatstone's stereoscope

2. Stereokaarten

2.1. The Holmes stereoscope

The most common type of hand-held stereoscope with an open skeletal frame is the Holmes stereoscope.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1904) read law at Harvard University before deciding on a medical career. Following studies at Harvard and in Paris, he received his degree from Harvard in 1836. He practiced medicine for 10 years, taught anatomy for two years at Dartmouth College, and in 1847 became professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard. He was later made dean of the Harvard Medical School, a post he held until 1882.
Holmes achieved his greatest fame, however, as a humorist and poet. He wrote much poetry and comic verse during his early school years and in 1857, he contributed his 'Breakfast-Table papers' to The Atlantic Monthly and subsequently published 'The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table' (1858), 'The Professor of the Breakfast-Table' (1860), 'The Poet of the Breakfast-Table' (1872) and 'Over the Teacups' (1891), written in conversational style and displaying Holmes's learning and wit.
In 1859 he invented a simple stereoscope, that was later refined by Joseph Bates, who added a hood to shade the eyes and an adjustable card holder. (= Holmes-Bates stereoscope)
The Holmes viewer uses magnifying lenses to fuse the parallel side by side mounted stereo pairs and it holds the stereocard on a sliding arm for focusing.

Several types of stereoviewers, from simple ones to an elaborate stereo-cabinet

2.2. The Holmes stereocards

From 1890 on many photographers were making sterophotos that were mounted on cards with a size of 3.5 x 7 inches (approx. 9 x 18 cm).
This size of cards became the standard size for Holmes stereocards. Stereocards were sold in sets and 3D images of all the wonders of the world were available.
The cards remained a popular entertainment until the 1940's.

Stereograph made by the famous American landscape photographer William H. Jackson.

2.3. ANTWERP-STEREO : stereocards and viewer

The stereocards were not only made by big firms like Keystone View Co, Underwood and Underwood,... but some local photographers made their own series.
In Antwerp you had ANTWERP-STÉRÉO that made stereoscopic photographs of the city and the surrounding areas. They also made series of sporting events, of the world fair 1930, of the opera and of other festivities of all kind.
These stereocards are contact-prints of stereo-negatives and the photos are not mounted on cardboard. The size is also smaller than the regular Holmes stereocards and thus Antwerp-Stéréo sold its own stereoviewer adapted to this format.

3. Some interesting stereocards from my collection

4. Stereoviewers with positive film

4.1. European Products

The Lestrade viewer and cards

In France the firm Bruguière already made stereophotographs on black and white positive film and a simple cardbox viewer. After the second world war they produce the BRUGUIERE STEREOCLIC viewer with the Bruguière stereocards.
These cards are moving up and down in the viewer.

An important other producer in France is LESTRADE. The Lestrade viewer and cards are very similar to the Bruguière. Their viewers are called Lestrade Simplex, Lestrade Suprex,..

De cards of Lestrade have 10 stereopairs and in the middle you have 2 small punch-holes used for the viewer sprocket to move the cards.
The Bruguière cards are different in the way that in the middle there is only one punch-hole between the stereopairs.
In the 1960's Bruguière is taken over by Lestrade.

4.2. View-Master

The View-Master reels with 7 stereopairs on each reels are probably the best known stereocards.
They were first made in 1939 and were shown to the public on the New York World's Fair of the same year.
The reels and viewers were produced in Portland, Oregon (USA) and later, during the GAF take-over - also in Belgium.

Nowadays View-Master is regarded to be a toy, but at the beginning it was marketed as a better version of the Holmes stereoviewer. With the Sawyer's View-Master you had 7 images on one reel and witht the new Kodachrome film the colours were excellent.

From 1939 to 1950 the reels were sold separately. From then on Sawyer's had a sufficient number of different reels and they grouped them in sets of 3 reels. From 1957 on they produced only sets.

In 1951 Sawyer's buys the firm Tru-Vue, a sub-division of the Rock Island Bridge and Iron Works in Rock Island, Illinois. The tru-Vue Company also made stereoviewers, but these were to view filmstrips of 35mm film. The strips of film were moved horizontally through the viewer. The Tru-Vue photostrips are on black and white positive film. It takes them until 1950 to switch to colour film and they choose Ansco positive film because this film can easily be processed by Tru_Vue itself. These STEREOCHROME strips had 9 stereopairs on one strip and the cost was 50 cents.
Unfortunately this Ansca process has proved to be inferior to the Kodachrome and most Stereochrome strips are now discoloured.

The most important thing in this take-over is that View-Master acquires the contract that Tru-Vue has with the Disney Studios.
From then on Sawyer's makes reels with the Disney characters and this cooperation is still going on.

1. a shift to more youth oriented subjects : from landscapes and touristic views to subjects from film, television, sports, cartoons, ;..
2. Kodachrome is replaced by films with E6 development.

In 1981 GAF sells View-Master to an investment group led by Arnold Thaler. The name is now changed to View-Master International Group.
The group stays on the course that GAF has begun (more and more youth oriented) and the package of the reels changes to a blister-pack without textbook or other information.

In 1984 VMI took over the Ideal Toy CO and so it became the View-Master Ideal Group.
In 1989 this group became part of the Tyco Toys Co.
In 1997 Tyco Toys Co. fused with Mattel Inc. and since then View-Master is a sub-division of the pre-school division. The marketing of this division is done by Fisher-Price.

From 1999 on the total production of Viewmaster is made in Mexico.

Apart from View-Master there are some other manufacturers of 3D-reels.

The Stereo-Rama (also Stereorama) reels were made in Milan, Italy by a company called Technofilm in the 1950's and 60's.
They made reels and viewers that were View-Master clones.
So the Stereo-Rama viewers take View-Master reels, together with an extensive range of Stereo-Rama reels manufactured specifically for them.
The Stereo-Rama reels were photographed using Kodachrome film and so the colours of the images have remained bright and vivid.
Al Stereo-Rama reels can also be viewed in View-Master stereoviewers.

In the 1950's MEOPTA of Tjecho-Slowakia also made 3D-reels. The quality of these reels is very variable : sometimes the film is totally discoloured (magenta) and sometimes the colours are still vivid. But what is interesting in these reels is that they give us a view on Eastern-European landscape in a time that Europe was split in two by the Iron Curtain.


Most people just buy the View-Master reels but you could also make the reels yourself. To do that you needed of course a stereo camera, a special film cutter and blanco reels.
The VIEW-MASTER Personal STEREO CAMERA was made in in the USA from 1952. It uses normal 35mm slide film, but the images are small pairs. The film is wound twice through the camera with lenses raised/lowered at each pass. Since it uses the smaller images you can get 69 pictures from a 36 exposure roll.

In 1961 the VIEW-MASTER STEREO COLOR CAMERA was marketed by Sawyer's Europe. This camera was made by Regula-Werk King - Germany from a Stereocraft/Sawyers design. The main difference is that the film travels diagonally. Because the film does not travel out of the film cartridge and then back in like the View-Master personal but at an angle so that you can get just as many pictures in one pass. A very crafty design.

Because the stereo-pairs are not positioned in the same way the film-cutter for the USA and for the European camera model are also different. So if you buy a View-Master film cutter be sure to buy the one that goes with your type of camera.

The cutter on the left is the one for the USA camera, the one on the right has diagonal stereo pairs and is for the European camera.