Stereoscopic photos from across the U.S. on New York Public Library website

Did you have a View-Master as a child? I still have mine and a variety of slides. These were an outgrowth of the stereoscopic photography that was the rage in the late 19th into the early 20th centuries. Duplicate pictures were viewed through a stereoscope and the image appeared to be 3 dimensional.

These are found in museums, archives, libraries, and historical societies around the world. I have seen modern reproductions of these sold in gift shops.

The New York Public Library is one of the repositories that has a large collection of such photos and has digitized these images. A man named Richard M. Dennis collected such stereo images during his lifetime.  In 1939, his collection of 35,000 images was sold to the New York Public Library. By 1980 he donated another 35,o00 images to the NYPL.

The date range of these photos is about 1850-1930 and cover buildings, people, churches, homes, hotels, railroads, and landmarks all across the United States. I plan to look at the images again and again. I searched by places and names of buildings. I saw one listed as Montpelier, Vermont that had a cat wearing a hat and sitting on a chair at a table. Reading a book. No, I am not kidding. Look for yourself!

The NYPL’s website has an in-depth explanation of the collection and of course, the images.

© 2016, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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3 comments on “Stereoscopic photos from across the U.S. on New York Public Library website

  1. Apparently stereoscopes were a popular entertainment for people — think YouTube for the 1870s. According to a journal entry in my husband’s great-grandfather Christopher James Hildreth’s journal, on 16 July 1876 he took an inventory of his “views” and had a collection of 15,598 stereoscopes! He estimated their value at $1,625 (probably about $37,000 +/- today). He ends the entry with “What occupation shall I take up now for evenings.” Somewhere along the line the whole collection got lost. I sure wish we had even a couple of those in the family heirloom collection today.

  2. I have some of these in my collection, but no viewers. They are very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.

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