Stereoscopy timeline 1838-1930

The history of stereoscopy from the very beginning until the end of the "glass era". The timeline is extended with developments in photography and important events from history.

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First stereoscope presented

1838

The English scientist and inventor Charles Wheatstone presents the first stereoscope for viewing stereographic drawings. It’s a large device that works with mirrors which he invented in 1832.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Daguerreotype process

1839

Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre introduces the Daguerreotype process, which will be the first publicly available photographic process. It’s widely used during the 1840s and 1850s and the first stereo photos are Daguerreotypes.

Petzval lens

1840

Joseph Petzval designs the Petzval lens. It has a focal length of 160mm and a maximum aperture of F3.6, which is much faster compared to previous lenses with a maximum aperture of about F16. The lens makes shorter exposure times possible and will be used for portraits.

Alexis Gaudin et frère

1843

Alexis Gaudin establishes a photography business with his older brother Marc-Antoine. The company makes Daguerreotype portraits and manufactures plates. In 1852 it’s one of the first stereoscope sellers in Paris and two years later they open a branch in London. Alexis Gaudin et frère will be one of the largest publishers of stereoviews. 

Carl Zeiss Jena

1846

Carl Zeiss Jena

Carl Zeiss starts the company that will become Carl Zeiss Jena. In the beginning it’s specialised in the manufacturing of microscopes. Over the years, it distinguishes itself in optimising and improving optics. The company will produce from c. 1905 the high quality Verant stereoscopes.

Albumen negatives

1847

Albumen glass negatives are invented by Claude Félix Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor. Albumun-on-glass negatives and diapositives will be mainly used by Ferrier & Soulier to create high-quality glass stereoviews.

Langenheim brothers

1848

William and Frederick Langenheim produce their first albumen-on-glass slides for the magic lantern projector.

Brewster Stereoscope

1849

Brewster Stereoscope

The Scotsman Sir David Brewster develops a more compact stereoscope based on lenses but this lenticular “Brewster stereoscope” initially arouses little interest in Britain and he can’t find manufacturers willing to produce his device.

Jules Duboscq

1850

Duboscq-Soleil Stereoscope

Brewster takes the prototype of his stereoscope to Paris and interests the instrument maker Jules Duboscq. Duboscq recognizes the potential of the device and starts producing and selling stereoscopes and improves Brewster’s design. He also starts making daguerreotype stereos to sell with the device.

Albumen prints

1850

Louis-Désiré Blanquart-Evrard presents the first albumen prints. It will be the most important process to create printed photos and stereocards from collodion glass negatives until c.1900.

Great Exhibition in London

1851

The British Queen Victoria looks through the lenses of a Brewster stereoscope made by Duboscq during the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. She’s impressed by the three-dimensional view and her enthusiasm contributes to the popularity of stereoscopy in the 1850s and 1860s.

Antoine Claudet

1851

Antoine Claudet stereo Daguerreotype

Antoine François Jean Claudet is a French photographer who produces daguerreotypes. From this year he operates a studio in London with the name “Temple to photography”. Claudet is a great promoter of stereo photography and improves stereoscope designs and will create many stereo daguerreotypes.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

French glass stereoviews

1851

During the 1851 Crystal Place exhibition, Jules Duboscq is introduced to the magic lantern glass slides of the American Langenheim brothers. It inspires him to sell glass stereoviews, made by his photographer Claude-Marie Ferrier. It will become a French specialty.

Collodion process

1851

Frederick Scott Archer invents the collodion process. The process produces a negative image on a transparent glass plate, allowing to make unlimited number of prints from a single negative. Collodion printing is typically done on albumen paper. It makes it possible to produce and sell stereocards on a large scale.

Second French Empire

1852

Mascher viewing case

1853

Mascher viewing case

John Frederick Mascher from Philadelphia patents a stereoscopic viewing case for stereo daguerreotypes.

First stereo camera

1853

The first stereo camera is designed by John Benjamin Dancer (1812-1887). Problems with finding two identical lenses means that the camera will not be released until 1856. Before the first stereo camera, stereo photos are taken sequentially by sliding a mono camera to obtain lateral differences between the two images.

Crimean War

1853

Claude-Marie Ferrier

1854

Claude-Marie Ferrier leaves the company of Jules Duboscq and continues as an independent photographer, making high-quality glass stereoviews.

Carte de Visite

1854

Carte de Visite

The Carte de Visite (CDV) is patented by the French photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. It’s a small photo that is mounted on a thicker paper card and can be produced inexpensively. The cards become a great success and are so popular that its usage is known as Cardomania.

London Stereoscopic Company

1854

The company begins as the London Stereoscope Company (LSC), from 1856 it’s known as the London Stereoscopic Company and from 1859 as the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company. They sell stereoviews and stereoscopes and will be leaders in the stereoscopy boom which sweeps England, Europe and the United States. The company ceases business in 1922 but its legacy is kept alive by the new London Stereoscopic Company.

Revolving Stereoscope

1855

Revolving Stereoscope

Antoine Claudet invents the revolving stereoscope. It’s a multiview stereoscope where stereoviews are attached to a revolving chain. This type of stereoscope will become very popular.

Negretti and Zambra

1856

The company of Henry Negretti and Joseph Zambra produces optical instruments and operates a photographic studio in London. This year they sponsor a photographic expedition to Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia by the English photographer Francis Frith. More than 500 stereoviews of Frith’s voyage are produced between 1857 and 1860.

Beckers stereoscope patent

1857

Mattey revolving stereoscope

Alexander Beckers from New York patents an improvement of the revolving stereoscope which is invented by Antoine Claudet. This type of stereoscope is now known as American stereoscope or Beckers stereoscope.

E. & H.T. Anthony & Co

1859

The company of the Anthony brothers begins with producing sets of stereocards, supported by an extensive distribution and retail network. They will become a major publisher of stereoviews in the United States.

Ferrier & Soulier

1859

Ferrier & Soulier

The French photographers Claude-Marie Ferrier and Charles Soulier start a partnership and produce high quality glass stereoviews of 8,5x17cm that will be very popular well into the 1870s.

Cabinet Card

1860

The Cabinet Card is introduced. It displaces the smaller Carte de Visite and will reach its peak popularity in the 1880s.

Holmes-Bates stereoscope

1860

The best known and most sold stereoscope-type in history is invented by the American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. He does not patent his invention and everyone is free to develop stereoscopes based on the design. It’s further improved by Joseph L. Bates and becomes known as the Holmes-Bates stereoscope or American stereoscope.

American Civil War

1861

Stereographoscope

1864

The first model of the Stereographoscope is patented by Charles John Rowsell.

Impressionism

January 1, 1870 12:00 am

Franco-Prussian War

January 14, 1870

French Third Republic

1870

German Empire

April 5, 1871

Gelatin silver process

1871

The gelatin silver process is introduced by the English photographer Richard Leach Maddox, though widespread adoption of the process occurs from the 1890s and it will become the leading photography process. Stereo photographers will use it for producing glass negatives and diapositives as well as for printing paper stereocards.

Mackenstein

1872

Mackenstein

The company of Mackenstein is founded. Mackenstein becomes a renowned manufacturer of cameras, stereo cameras and stereoscopes.

A. Mattey Stereoscopes

1872
A. Mattey Stereoscopes

Stéréoscopes A. Mattey is founded and will be one of the largest manufacturers of stereoscopes. The company sells it devices using four trademarks emphasizing different product types or exclusivity. Unis France is the best known trademark.

La Belle Époque

1880

Underwood & Underwood

1881

Underwood & Underwood is founded by the brothers Elmer and Bert Elias Underwood. They will become the largest publisher of stereoviews in the world, producing 10 million views a year.

Photographie Vulgarisatrice

1886

Photographie Vulgarisatrice is founded and established in Paris. The company’s goal is to make photography accessible to amateurs with simple and affordable cameras. It will develop a series of wooden folding cameras with a single lens with the trademark L’Incroyable and a limited range of stereo cameras.

Opening Brentano’s Paris

1887
Opening Brentano’s Paris

Brentano’s is a chain of American bookstores. It opens its first foreign store on the Avenue de l’Opéra in Paris. The bookshop in Paris will be a major producer and wholesaler of glass stereoviews with images of the First World War in 45 x 107mm and 6 x 13cm format.

The Kaiserpanorama

1890

The Kaiserpanorama

August Fuhrmann patents The Kaiserpanorama, a stereoscopic entertainment medium used in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a precursor to film. The panorama has a number of viewing stations through which people would peer through a pair of lenses showing a number of rotating stereoscopic glass slides.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Art Nouveau

1890

The Vérascope

1893
The Vérascope

Jules Richard enters the market of stereo photography and introduces two new compact glass formats: 45x107mm and 6x13cm. He develops the famous and succesful Vérascope stereo camera for the 45x107mm format and revives stereo photography in France.

The Stereoscopic Society

1893

The Stereoscopic Society

The Stereoscopic Society is founded. The society still exists today and is the longest established stereoscopy club in history. The image is the earliest group photo from 1927.

Image source: The Stereoscopic Society

Neue Photographische Gesellschaft (NPG)

July 5, 1894

Neue Photographische Gesellschaft

The company is founded by Arthur Schwarz. It will be one of the best known and largest German companies in the production of postcards, photographs and stereoviews until the First World War.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Etablissements A. Plocq

1895

Planox Stéréoscope Magnétique

Etablissements A. Plocq from Paris is founded by Alexandre Plocq and located at Rue de Center, Les Lilas. The company builds both hand-held and table stereoscopes, including the Planox Stéréoscope Magnétique.

Stéréocycle by Bazin & Leroy

1897
Stéréocycle by Bazin & Leroy

The Stéréocycle camera is introduced by Charles Bazin and Lucien Leroy.

The Taxiphote

1900
The Taxiphote

Jules Richard registers the patent for the Taxiphote. It will be the most sophisticated stereoscope of its time and remains in production for 35 years.

Stéréo-Panoramique Leroy

1903
Stéréo-Panoramique Leroy

Lucien Leroy introduces the Stéréo-Panoramique camera. It can produce both stereo photos and panoramic photos, just by switching the position of a lens.

Autochrome process

1903
Autochrome process

The brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière patent the Autochrome process which will be first marketed in 1907. Autochrome is the first process that allows creating a color image based on one single exposure. It will be the leading color photography process until the 1930s.

The Glyphoscope

1905
The Glyphoscope

The Glyphoscope is a stereo camera for beginners, developed by Jules Richard. It’s a compact, simple and affordable camera that can also serve as a stereoscope.

Jean Agélou erotic photos

1905

La Belle Époque is also the “golden age” of nude photography in France. Nude images by the photographer Jean Agélou appear in the magazine L’Étude Académique for the first time. He will publish erotic postcards and paper stereocards on a large scale until 1921.

Societé des Etablissements Gaumont

1906

Léon Ernest Gaumont is a French industrialist and pioneer of the motion picture industry. His company also manufactures stereo cameras and stereoscopes, like the Stéréodrome. Their products are of high quality and it will be a big competitor to Jules Richard.

Minimus & Multiphote

1907

Lucien-Albert Bize and Siméon-Louis Claparède patent a design for a small table stereoscope with the name Minimus. The device lacks a complex mechanism. The glass stereoviews are simply brought in viewing position by gravity. The Multiphote is a further development and adds a slide-tray to place and catch the slides.

ICA

1909
ICA

The International Camera Actiengesellschaft (ICA) from Dresden is founded by merging four existing camera manufacturers: Hüttig AG, Kamerawerk Dr. Krügener, Wünsche AG and Carl Zeiss Palmos AG. The company has several stereo cameras and stereoscopes in their product range.

Hemdé

1910

Hemdé Stereoscope

Hemdé is a lesser-known French manufacturer of stereoscopes. The name “Hemdé” is composed of the name of founder Maurice Delécaille and Hem, a village near Lille in northern France. He partners with Paul Sorel, who continues the business on his own from this year.

Photo-Plait

1910

Photo-Plait

Henri Plait opens his first photography store at 37, Rue La Fayette in Paris. During the First World War he promotes cameras especially for the soldiers at the front. The marketing slogan is “Le Kodak du Soldat”. The Photo-Plait catalog of 1918/1919 contains glass stereoviews of the war, produced by La Stéréoscopie Universelle.

World War I

July 28, 1914

Section Photographique de l’Armée

May 9, 1915

The First World War is the first major conflict in which photography plays a major role. The French army sets up its own photography section, named Section Photographique de l’Armée. The SPA takes about 120.000 photos during the war, including about 20.000 stereo photos.

German Weimar Republic

1918

Booming war stereoviews

1919

After the First World War, stereoviews of the conflict become booming. Producers like Brentano’s and La Stéréoscopie Universelle produce and sell stereoviews on a large scale. The views will be very popular well into the 1920s and sold by retailers like Louis Provot.

Keystone View Company

1920

Underwood & Underwood discontinues its stereoview production and the company sells its negatives to the Keystone View Company.

The Posographe

1922

Auguste-Robert Kaufmann patents the Posographe, an exposure calculator for photographers. It’s a clever design and the device will be a great success.

Zeiss Ikon

1926

The Zeiss Ikon company is founded and is a merger of Ernemann, Goerz, ICA and Contessa-Nettel. Zeiss Ikon will be one of the most important camera manufacturers until the Second World War. Its headquarters is located in Dresden and the product range initially consists of products designed by the merger companies, including stereo cameras and stereoscopes.

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