Stereo View Cards

Stereo Views

Stereoscopic photographs, also known as stereo views or stereographs were a very popular form of entertainment during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Using a special viewer called a stereoscope,  two flat images were transformed into an amazing 3-D image with life-like depth.  

Stereoscopic photography dates back, almost, to the beginnings of photography itself.  Commercial production of stereo views began in the 1850s and reached its zenith in the late 1890s.  Makers offered images of a wide variety of subjects.  These included famous people, wars, disasters, major events, world's fairs, animals, humorous scenes, religious subjects, nature scenes, great works of art, and all sorts views of exotic and not-so-exotic places and more.   They were immensely popular and  to meet the great demand for them, numerous makers from individual photographers to large companies, produced vast quantities of these novel items.  Two of the largest producers were Underwood & Underwood and the Keystone View Company.  

The stereo views were initially, sold individually or by the dozen.  Later, they would be marketed in sets.  One popular set was the "Tour of the World" which was produced by the Keystone View Company.  This set came in 100, 200, 400, 600, or 1200 view versions.  In an era before television, movies and air travel, stereo views provided people with a entertaining window onto the world.  They could visit all sorts of exotic and foreign lands all from the comfort of their easy chair.  Stereo views were not only to be found in the parlors of private homes, but were also a staple in many a classroom as well. 

Dating and identifying individual images can sometimes be challenging.  The negatives often changed hands as one company or its stock of images/negatives was bought by or merged with another.  It is not unusual for an image to be in use for 30 years or more after it was taken.  Dating the actual stereo views themselves is a bit easier.  Some are clearly labeled and dated.  Others are not, but based on the type of photograph and the form, size, shape and color of the card mounts, a reasonable approximation of date can be made.  For example, curved mounts became popular in the late 1890s. Before this time, the mounts were flat.  

Stereo views were not all photographic images, lithographic or printed image cards were also produced.  In an era, before color photography, some images were colored by  hand tinting (painting the photographs themselves) to try and produce more life-like results.  These colored images often sold at a premium. 

Stereo views provide a wonderful window into a past era.   They help to show us what was considered important and of interest.  Some stereo views preserve images of events long past, of things no longer extant or remind us of just how much some places have changed (or remained the same) over time.  These 3-D images are just as amazing to view today, as they were when they were new.  


  • Waldsmith, John,  Stereo Views An Illustrated History and Price Guide, Kraus Publications (1991)
  • Zeller, Bob, The Civil War In Depth Volume II, Chronicle Books (2000)



the Ancient World


other Far-off And

Exotic Places


Stereo Views


Viewing the Images








Palestine and the Holy Land




New Guinea



United States




Welcome Page / Exhibit / Site Links / Articles



 Return to the 

Stereo View Exhibit 




Copyright � 2005, 2007, 2015 by Theodore Bernhardt.  All rights reserved.