7 July 2019

Stereoscope Hemdé

Category: Stereoscopy   Tags: Stereoscope
Historic Landscapes - Stereoscope Hemdé -

My latest acquisition is an antique cabinet stereoscope for viewing 45x107mm glass stereo views. The stereoscope dates from the beginning of the 20th century and is built by Hemdé. I wanted to know everything about the device and its maker. A product catalogue and online archives revealed some information about its past.

The company

Hemdé is a lesser-known French manufacturer of stereoscopes. Little is known about the company. The name "Hemdé" is said to be composed of the name of founder Maurice Delécaille and Hem, a village near Lille in northern France. A paper of the Sociétés Photographiques du Nord de la France from 1903 mentions "M. Delécaille, director of Hemdé devices and products".

A new name appears on a product catalogue from April 1914: M.P. Sorel. A trade register from 1910 mentions a dissolution of Société Delécaille et Sorel, à Hem on December 31, 1909. Sorel solely continued building stereoscopes under the Hemdé brand name. The business activities moved from Hem to Lille and probably from now on the products carry both names Hemdé and Sorel. In 1913 the company moved from 89, Rue Nationale to 9, Rue Macquart in Lille. I haven't found any traces from 1915 or later. During the First World War, Lille was occupied by the German army on 13 October 1914. The city suffered from heavy shelling. Maybe the war ceased Hemdé's business activities.

The products

The 1914 catalogue shows a relatively small range of stereoscopes, development tools and a price list. Interestingly, the introduction contains a detailed description of the mechanics and a user manual.
Hemdé product catalogue from April 1914
Hemdé product catalogue from April 1914

Hemdé distinguishes itself from other makers by "extreme simplicity and robustness of the parts and the absolutely infallible mechanism that is protected against dust and moisture".

The stereoscope

The stereoscope is a Series I model for viewing 45x107mm glass stereo views. The wooden cabinet has a mahogany finish and consists of two parts: a viewer and a storage box for storing slide trays with stereo views. There is room for 12 slide trays, which can store up to 300 stereo views.

Stereoscope Hemdé

The front shows the Hemdé logo and a patent plate with Stéréo Hemdé Breveté S.G.D.G. Unfortunately, the stereoscope does not contain a serial number or year. Because the name Sorel is missing, I assume that this model is dated before 1910.

Stereoscope Hemdé

The two eyepieces can be focused with two knobs on both sides. The distance between the two eyepieces can be adjusted. Eyepiece blinders can be adjusted to block incident light.

The mechanism is simple and the device is very easy to use. A slide tray with 25 stereo views is placed in the device. Turning the crank brings a new stereo view into position. The stereo view is lifted and placed in front of the eyepieces and can be viewed. At the rear, an opaque glass window illuminates the slides and on the right side of the device the number of the stereo view in the tray is displayed.

Stereoscope Hemdé

My stereoscope is in good condition and I'm very pleased with my purchase. These types of stereoscopes are readily available but finding a Hemdé is rare. To quote Paul Wing: "It is a nice collectable if it can be found".

References:

  • Notice et prix courants des Stéréoscopes classeurs "Hemdé", April 1914
  • Bulletin des Sociétés Photographiques du nord de la France, June 1903 (via: Gallica)
  • Archives Commerciales de La France, February 1910 (via: Gallica)
  • Revue Mensuelle du Commerce & de L'Industrie Photographiques, January 1913 (via: Gallica)
  • Stereoscopes: the first one hundred years, Paul Wing, 1996
  • Lille tijdens de Duitse bezetting, C. Wallart (via: Wegen van Herdenking)