Antique Stereoptican with Travel Slides

Stereoptican. Patented in 1897. No brand name.   This is a very up-to-date model. The slide can be moved to focus the picture and the handle folds up for easy storage. My husband’s father remembers playing with this at his great-grandmother’s house when he was a boy.

For those of you who haven’t had the fortune to look through a steroptican, they were a first in technology. A heavy cardboard slide containing a double photo was inserted into the slots on the left. The photos had been taken at slightly different angles by a camera with two lenses placed 2 1/2 inches apart, about the distance between your eyes. You looked through the silver viewfinder and voila! A 3-D picture.

Invented in England, this gadget was popularized in the U.S. by Oliver Wendal Holmes of all people, who designed a hand-held model in the mid 1850’s.

The slides were often of scenery for the arm-chair traveler. This one is labeled “Storm mists press down on the mountain walls above beautiful Loen Lake, the Nordfjord, Norway.”

In addition to scenery, domestic scenes were popular – mothers with babies, fathers feeding chickens. The one below is labeled “Dutch Courtship.” You can see the double slide which created the 3-D effect. I wonder what my husband’s father made of the picture.

Not all the slides I have are from my husband’s family. My mother also collected them; I believe the Norwegian ones are from her because of my American Field Service sister.

It’s fascinating to think of how people entertained themselves in the past and to try out some of their toys. But don’t try to take away my movies, internet or the chance to write this blog. Otherwise, what would I do on Wednesday and Sunday nights?!

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