STEREO PHOTOGRAPHERS STEREOGRAPHS, 1893-1904, #414
By David Haberstich, July 25, 1991
Stereographs utilize a pair of photographic images from negatives taken with camera lenses separated laterally by a few inches, to approximate the distance between a human's eyes. The resulting images, when viewed separately but simultaneously--one image for each eye--provide the illusion of normal depth perception or three-dimensional viewing. Stereographs were made as early as the 1840s, but did not achieve widespread popularity until the 1860s, when several companies began to mass-produce them. After a period of flagging interest, another wave of popularity occurred when Underwood & Underwood began publishing "educational," travel-oriented images in 1895. The intrepid, peripatetic photographers who took the stereo views occasionally were themselves of interest to viewers. See standard references on the photographers and companies represented by these stereographs, such as William Culp Darrah, The World of Stereographs, etc.; also see the register for the Archives Center's Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection.
Scope and Content
These four stereographs show stereo photographers at work. One, a view of a child taken in 1893, is an early, gentle lampoon on both the Underwood & Underwood name and enterprise.
The stereographs were purchased from a dealer, Jeffrey Kraus, who obtained them from unidentified standard sources and collectors. They were acquired because of their relationship to images in the Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection.
Folder 1, "Taking a View for You & U," copyright 1893 by J. F. Jarvis, published by Jarvis, Washington, D.C., "Sold only by Underwood & Underwood." Shows a little girl wearing a dress and large hat, holding a folding field camera (not a stereoscopic camera, although the pun in the caption suggests that she is making stereo photographs for Underwood & Underwood). Buff mount.
Folder 2, Uncaptioned view of man without a camera, standing on a pier amid ruins, published by Underwood & Underwood, n.d. Buff mount. Pencil on verso reads: Can you identify these ruins--I know that is Bert Underwood standing on the column but I don't know the place. It looks a bit like Karnak except for the grass. The guide is an arch. Bert was undoubtedly the greatest stereo photographer but he was vain and liked to get in his pictures. I have other pictures of him so I can identify him. L. E. Colvin.
Folder 3, "Our well known Stereoscopic Photographer, H. A. Strohmeyer--Blanket Court-martialed by his Army friends." [sic] (Strohmeyer is shown being tossed in air from blanket.) Copyright 1898 by Strohmeyer & Wyman, "Sold only by Underwood & Underwood." Buff mount.
Folder 4, "An Underwood stereoscopic photographer at the crater of the largest active volcano in the world, Aso-san, Japan," copyright 1904 by Underwood & Underwood. Photographer, standing on ladder, is undoubtedly Hebert G. Ponting. Gray mount.