I know I said I don’t collect Stereoviews (and I really don’t, except that one series) but this one came along with the Native American portrait of yesterday’s post, and it was sufficiently cute I thought it worth keeping and posting. It’s copyright 1897, by Strohmeyer & Wyman, distributed by Underwood & Underwood. I’d not heard of Strohmeyer and Wyman before, but Underwood & Underwood were a HUGE publisher of stereoviews.
Although it may be a little hard to see (the original card is somewhat faded, especially in the highlights) the little girl in the upper right has cupid wings and a bow-and-arrow.
“Shall I leave my summer love?”
If you’ve been reading my blog long enough you’ll probably remember my saying I don’t collect stereoviews. That’s largely true – I will on occasion buy the odd one if it’s cheap and has an interesting subject, but I’m not really looking for them – collecting them is kinda like getting into sports trading cards of all varieties: just too much out there if it isn’t your primary focus. I am however collecting a specific series because it’s a small series – only about 24 images in total for the full set. The first one in the series that I acquired was found at an antique shop in Sacramento, California. The card shows a station on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, outside Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania (now known as Jim Thorpe, PA). I have since found four more in the series. These are all early stereoviews from the 1870s (one of the new ones posted here today has a date on the reverse in pencil of October 4, 1876), identifiable as such by the size (they are larger than the later cards) and by the paper stock and printing style.
Here are the two latest acquisitions. I had been hunting for more on an irregular basis for the last year-plus, and then finally these two show up at almost the same time, and in quite good condition overall. I suspect it will be hard to complete the set, but it’s not like I’m on a schedule
Mansion House, Mauch Chunk, PA
Switch Back RR, Lehigh Valley Railroad
Here’s a pair of stereoviews of the scenery around Madison Square Park in New York City. They’re effectively a matched set because the one is a view of the Flatiron building looking south from Madison Square Park, and the other is looking up Broadway past Madison Square Park from the Flatiron. The Flatiron building is so-called because of its triangular shape which reminded people of the shape of a clothes iron. It is also one of the most iconic buildings in New York City, and one of the most photographed. It was the first “skyscraper” in New York, and while today it is almost petite in comparison to its uptown neighbors, it was a marvel of construction and engineering in its day.
The Flatiron, looking South from Broadway at Madison Square Park
Broadway, looking North from the Flatiron Building
Stereoview, Cliff House, San Francisco, ca. 1900
A beautiful stereoview of one of my favorite places. Seeing the building from this perspective, it’s no wonder it collapsed and burned in the 1906 earthquake. It’s amazing it didn’t slide wholesale into the sea!
US Treasury Building
Quite possibly the oldest stereoview I have – I’d put this one at no later than 1870. This may have even been taken during the Civil War, although I think you’d have been hard pressed to find Pennsylvania Avenue that empty during the war. The area around the White House was even more the center of government at that time than it is now (now federal agencies are spread throughout the town and into the suburbs). The State Department was across the street to the north, and the War department was the other side of the White House. But Washington was a much smaller town in those days, and when Congress was not in session, half the town was empty.
Displayed in order of oldest to newest:
On the Grand Canal, Venice
This one probably dates from the 1860s/early 1870s based on the plain style of the card and the condition of the albumen print(s). No label on front or back, but a hand-written note in Italian stating “Palazzo Cavalli”
The Arch of Constantine, Rome
This one is still probably 19th century, but 1880s-1890s. American made.
The Piazza della Signoria, Firenze
Most likely between 1900-1910. This one fascinated me because I’ve actually been there! It was neat to see how the Piazza looked over 100 years ago.
Venus of Canova, Firenze
This one came along for the ride in the batch of stereoviews. I’m not sure if this Venus resides in the Bargello or the Accademia.
The Vatican Library
Castel Sant Angelo
The first one is actually a French stereoview, and is definitely the oldest of the three – could be as early as the 1860s, but more likely 1870s. The Vatican Library is an Underwood & Underwood from 1903. The Castel Sant’Angelo is also an Underwood, and it is dated 1897.
Here are three stereoviews of China, taken in the first half-decade of the 20th century. These were produced by Keystone and Underwood & Underwood, two of the biggest producers of stereoviews. They both churned out thousands of these cards as fast as they could be supplied with new images of exotic locales, exotic being very broadly defined. This was foreign travel on the cheap, when it was not only more expensive but more time-consuming and more dangerous. The stereoview both broadened the horizons of their consumer and reinforced existing stereotypes of the day – note that the crowd on the steps in the rice paddy is “jeering natives” – they’re probably all wondering what that idiot gweiloh (white man) is doing putting his head under a blanket on the back of that funny box on the hill across the way.
Rice Paddies, Kiangsi
Ningpo Guild Hall
The Great Wall of China, Nankow Pass
I was out to my parents’ house this weekend for Easter dinner, and I found my stash of stereoviews I had been keeping there. I thought I’d scan in a few of them to add to the online collection here. These are from Washington DC, my guess is mostly from the 1920s and 1930s, although the one of the Library of Congress as viewed from the Capitol dome could be as old as the 1890s.
The US Capitol Dome reflected in the rain
I love this shot because it represents a personal passion when photographing- nighttime photography. It’s just a great shot of the Capitol dome all illuminated, reflecting in the wet street.
Capitol Hill Aerial View
Here’s an aerial view of Capitol Hill, looking west. In the immediate foreground, starting with the US Capitol as the 12 O’clock position, going clockwise, is the US Senate offices, the US Supreme Court (the very bright white building, which stands today on the grounds of the former Old Brick Capitol Prison, home to civil war spies among others), across the street and a little more to the foreground is the Folger Shakespeare Library, and then continuing on is the Library of Congress, and finishing up to the left and slightly into the background/west of the US Capitol are two of the US Congress office buildings. On the right, far in the distance, is the Natural History Museum, and the big gulf between it and the Capitol shows these to have been taken before 1937, as the National Gallery of Art building was begun at that time and opened to the public in 1941.
Library of Congress, as seen from the Capitol dome
Last but not least, we have the Library of Congress, as seen from the top of the US Capitol dome. The view is looking east down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Anacostia River. This, the main building of the Library of Congress (LoC) is one of the most spectacular buildings in Washington DC, and if you are ever here, well worth the visit for the architecture alone, if not for one of the special exhibits they routinely have on display. When I went in last year to see a photography exhibit (and yes, the LoC is one of the great photography museums of the world, but much of their collection is viewable by appointment only), they had the reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library that he donated upon his death to form the nucleus of the LoC collection. In comparison to today’s LoC, which has a copy of every book, magazine and newspaper published since the 1870s, and a healthy selection of those before as well, Jefferson’s collection was a meager 6500 books, what he lacked in quantity he made up for in quality. He had his own organizational scheme for his library, arranged by topic. It’s a fascinating display and worthwhile for any bibliophile. For more information about the exhibit, see the LOC Website
Here’s a vintage stereoview of Chief Standing Buffalo (although he’s not standing in this image) from 1871. This is a perfect example of what I was just discussing in the comments on the last post – this is a copy stereoview of an original. You can tell this is a copy by the overall lack of sharpness and contrast, and by the fact that the card is completely unlabeled as to subject or photographer. An original card from the original photographer would fetch something 6-10 times what I paid for this one.
Chief Standing Buffalo, of the Winnebago tribe, copy stereoview
Here is a scan from a 2008 auction catalog of the original stereoview, by Hamilton & Hoyt. Notice the difference in quality.
Hamilton & Hoyt, Standing Buffalo Stereoview