Stereo collection Special Collections
Historic Photograph Collections
The stereograph, or stereogram, is a pair of photographic images mounted on a card. Viewed through a stereoscope device, the image appears three-dimensional. Stereos were introduced in the 1850s and became a huge commercial success. Darrah suggests that North America may have had some 12,000 stereo photographers who created millions of images in total. Stereos were used in parlors to give people a glimpse of the rest of the world, as souvenirs of a trip, and for amusement. The Keystone Company developed a huge educational market to get stereos into use in schools.
Identifying stereo producers can be difficult. The relationship between photographer, publisher and distributor was fluid and often not well documented on the image. Negatives changed ownership as businesses flourished and declined. The type of card stock and the size of the mount changed through time. For more information on stereos, consult William C. Darrah's landmark book, The World of Stereographs.
The stereographs in our collections have been organized into a general collection; where sufficient numbers by a single producers have been identified, those images are extracted into a separate collection. Please be aware that additional stereo images may be found within Northwest Photographers (such as Carleton Watkins) or elsewhere within our holdings.
The Stereograph collection documents a photographic phenomenon of the 19th and early 20th century which brought world landscapes and peoples to the European and American public. The collection consists of 140 images by anonymous and identified photographers, publishers and distributors. A variety of stereograph formats are represented.
Underwood & Underwood (1882-1920) was a North American stereograph firm that distributed images by photographers such as Bierstadt and Jarvis and then began to produce original works, eventually dominating the industry. The firm sold out to Keystone in 1923. This collection consists of 49 images from the Philippines conflict of the Spanish-American War, several Northwest images, and two of President McKinley. There is a cased set of 84 images of Mexico, not itemized.
The London Stereoscopic Co. dominated the industry in the 1850s. Its principal photographer, William England (c.1816-1896), produced a set of American travel images in 1859 that provided Europeans with the first look at the American landscape--including the iconic Niagara Falls--and in 1862 took images at London's International Exhibition. The collection consists of 27 images, 24 by England. Many are hand-tinted.
Ben W. Kilburn (1827-1909) took sole control of Kilburn Bros. (est. 1865) in 1877 as a photographer and publisher. His merchandising techniques made the company a major force in stereos. The company ceased production in 1909. The collection consists of 26 images including the Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco Earthquake, and the Philippines war.
Lawrence & Houseworth (1852-1870s) was a San Francisco firm that sold photographic supplies, distributed stereos from a variety of sources, and created original images. George Lawrence and Thomas Houseworth built an impressive catalog of Western and Pacific Coast images by employing photographers including Thomas Hart, Carleton Watkins, and Eadward Muybridge. The collection consists of 38 images, primarily of San Francisco and Sacramento. Blind-stamped images are likely to be L&H distribution of works by unidentified publishers and photographers.
B.H. Singley established the Keystone View Company in 1892, in Pennsylvania, and served as sole photographer until 1897. Keystone built a huge educational catalog using additional images acquired from Kilburn, White, Underwood, and Berry, Kelley & Chadwick. The collection consists of 52 images dated 1898-1906 and focus on the San Francisco earthquake and the Spanish-American War in the Philippines.
W. Henry Brown (1844-1886) was a stereo photographer active in the American Southwest. With G.C. Bennett, he formed Bennett & Brown (active 1870s-1880s). The collection consists of 23 images, including eight from the series A Visit to Los Cerrillos Mining District and eight from The Indian Pueblo of Cochiti and Vicinity.
J.M. Letts and J.D. Eagles were New York State photographers. The collection consists of 18 images, 3 by Letts, all of which show the town of Dundee, NY. Four of the Eagles images are "respectfully dedicated to J.M. Letts, Esq., N.Y."; the remainder are dedicated to D.P. Dey of the Seneca Lake Navigation Co.
Edward Anthony began issuing stereos in 1859; his brother, Henry T. Anthony joined the firm in 1862. In addition to its massive stereo catalog, the company was the largest supplier of photographic materials in the U.S., providing cameras and studio props as well as papers and chemicals. The collection consists of seven images of New York City and New York State.
George W. Griffith and his brother created Griffith & Griffith in Philadelphia in 1896. The company was based on the Underwood model, for whom George had worked. In 1889 he began producing original images. In addition to landmarks, the company was noted for its humorous series. The collection consists of ten images from a Marital Bliss series.
Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921) was a photographer noted for his images of the Northwest and Yellowstone. Haynes was official photographer of Yellowstone National Park and for the Northern Pacific Railroad. The collection consists of fourteen images, two of the Grand Canyon and twelve of Yellowstone.
Jackson Brothers was an Omaha company formed in 1867 by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) and his brother Edward. William became a noted landscape photographer by 1869 and left in 1870 to serve as official photographer for the Hayden survey for USGS, the beginning of a remarkable career in photography and marketing. The collection consists of ten stereos of Utah landscapes from "Scenery of the Union Pacific Railroad."
E. Schuster was a photographer active in La Vegas, New Mexico in the 1880s. The collection consists of nine stereo images of the West: one of San Felipe de Neri in Albuquerque, one of a house in Denver, and the rest of the Las Vegas vicinity. There are also ten boudoir prints of Las Vegas.