Nostalgic Toys - Stereoscopes

A stereoscope is a device for viewing a pair of separate images, which are almost identical, side by side.  When viewed through the stereoscope, the image appears three-dimensional.  Many may know the stereoscope more commonly as the trademarked toy, "View Master".

 Publisher D. Appleton and Company's stereoscopic showroom on Broadway in New York City

Publisher D. Appleton and Company's stereoscopic showroom on Broadway in New York City

Stereoscopes were wildly popular in the 1850's to 1930's where even showrooms existed to display and sell the stereograph slides.   Millions of stereographs were produced, and steroscopes were common in many homes.  In a age before movies and TV, they brought news and entertainment to parlors and living rooms.  

They captured history, landscaping, architecture and street scenes through one dimensional photos and brought them to life, transporting you into the image.

 NYC Flat Iron Building Stereoscope slide 

NYC Flat Iron Building Stereoscope slide 

In late 1939, the View-Master was introduced at the New York World's Fair.. It was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard, and was originally sold at photography shops, stationery stores, and scenic-attraction gift shops. The main subjects of View-Master reels were Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon.  In more modern times, the View-Master reels began to feature fewer scenic and more child-friendly subjects, such as toys and cartoons and television series.

The New-York Historical Society recently released a book/stereoscope set which includes a sturdy metal stereoscopic viewer and 50 stereoscopic photographs of turn-of-the-century New York. The package also includes a 128-page paperback that provides a brief history of the stereograph craze and an overview of the city’s evolution during that time.    It is a fun source of historical research and it makes for a great coffee table book.

Which one did you own?

By Melanie Ann Mercado of M Ann M Creations

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