Stereoviews

Unidentified Photographer, [Two Unidentified Women Reading a Letter], ca. 1880s

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George Barker, The Johnstown Calamity, 1889

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Unidentified Photographer, How De Debil Do Dey Make A Bicycle, ca. 1900

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Handheld stereoviewer

Oliver Wendell Holmes invented the “Holmes type” stereoviewer. He explains his device in an article in the Atlantic Monthly from 1859 :

A stereoscope is an instrument which makes surfaces look solid. All pictures in which perspective and light and shade are properly managed, have more or less of the effect of solidity; but by this instrument that effect is so heightened as to produce an appearance of reality which cheats the senses with its seeming truth…The first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereoscope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced. The mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture. The scraggy branches of a tree in the foreground run out at us as if they would scratch our eyes out. The elbow of a figure stands forth so as to make us almost uncomfortable. Then there is such a frightful amount of detail, that we have the same sense of infinite complexity which Nature gives us. A painter shows us masses; the stereoscopic figure spares us nothing,—all must be there, every stick, straw, scratch, as faithfully as the dome of St. Peter’s, or the summit of Mont Blanc, or the ever-moving stillness of Niagara. The sun is no respecter of persons or of things.

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