22 December 2019

Jules Richard

The success story of French stereoscopy

Jules Richard - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

Jules Richard was a French industrialist who had a great influence on the popularity of stereo photography at the beginning of the 20th century. He introduced two new image formats and launched a wide range of stereo cameras, stereoscopes and accessories in various price ranges.

He was born on 19 December 1848. His father Félix Richard produced scientific instruments and was specialised in barometers. The company had financial difficulties.

Jules Richard

Jules Richard took over the family business in 1876. He patented in 1880 the first barometer that could record air pressure readings on a cylinder. It was a great success and the company at Rue Mélingue in Paris started to grow. From 1882 he ran the company together with his younger brother Max under the name Richard Frères. Max left the company in 1891, but the name and logo RF remained in use for many years.

Richard Frères logo

Jules Richard had a great interest in stereo photography and was a passionate photographer himself. Stereo photography was already popular in France, but the cameras were large and expensive. They used fragile glass plates of 8x17cm or 9x18cm as negative.

He decided to enter the market of stereo photography and introduced in 1893 two compact glass formats: 45x107mm (small format) and 6x13cm (medium format). He developed cameras and stereoscopes based on these new formats. The first model of the famous Vérascope stereo camera was introduced in the same year and the product portfolio was expanded with stereoscopes and accessoires in various price ranges.

Jules Richard - handheld stereoscope for 45x107 glass stereoviews
Handheld stereoscope for 45x107 glass stereoviews

In particular, the 45x107 format made it possible to produce compact and cheaper cameras, bringing photography within the reach of amateurs. Other manufacturers in and outside France adopted the two new formats and contributed to the success of stereo photography.

The Glyphoscope was introduced in 1905. It was a simple and affordable stereo camera that could also serve as a stereoscope. The exclusive Taxiphote was one of the most advanced stereoscopes of its time.

Jules Richard - Taxiphote Modèle Simplifié for 45x107 glass stereoviews
Taxiphote Modèle Simplifié for 45x107 glass stereoviews

As a photographer, he distinguished himself by making and publishing stereo photos with erotic images. He also published about 1500 stereoviews with images of the First World War.

300 people worked at the company in 1921 and it went to the stock market. Jules Richard decided to withdrew from the company. In 1923, he donated six million francs for the foundation of the École des Apprentis Mécaniciens Précisionnistes, a craft school for training students in making precision instruments.

Jules Richard died on 18 June 1930 and was buried at the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Today, the workshops at Rue Mélingue have completely disappeared. The company lives on under the name JRI and is still specialised in the development of precision instruments. The school he founded exists today as Jules Richard Lycée Technologique Privé.

Jules Richard - Product catalog from 1917
Product catalog from 1917

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