Title: Keystone-Mast Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1870-1963
Collection Number: 1996.0009
Keystone View Company
The physical collection consists of 250,000 stereoscopic glass-plate and
film negatives and 100,000 vintage prints
42,027 digital items available online
UCR/California Museum of Photography
Riverside, California 92521
Abstract: UCR-California Museum of Photography faces the challenge of
providing ready, useful and intellectual access to a valuable body of cultural and
educational resources of interest to the general public and scholars alike.
Consisting of 250,000 stereoscopic glass-plate and film negatives and 100,000
vintage prints, UCR-California Museum of Photography's Keystone-Mast Collection is
the archive of the Keystone View Company of Meadville, PA (active from 1892-1963).
As a collection, it is the world's largest body of original stereoscopic negatives
and prints providing an encyclopedic view of global cultural history. Formed over
the period of the United States' emergence as a world power, Keystone-Mast not only
chronicles an age, it also represents in pictures a dominant point of view about the
world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is an important tool for
among others, anthropologists, art historians, cultural studies scholars,
historians, political scientists and sociologists.
Keystone-Mast Collection Guide 2003 provides online access to
approximately twenty percent (approximately 28,872) of the total stereographic
collection. To date, it represents content from the following geopolitical subject
areas: entries from North America, from Central America, from West Indies (Caribbean
Islands), from South America, from Oceania, from Asia, from Africa, and from the
Middle East. When finished, the collection guide will consist of well over 100,000
online stereoviews complete with metadata.
UCR/CMP's 2007-2008 Keystone-Mast digitization
initiative, which was completed through a National Endowment for the Humanities
Preservation and Access grant, has contributed an additional 13,155 stereoscopic
views of the Middle East and southern Asia, including views of Algeria, Egypt,
India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.
Original prints and negatives are restricted and may not be viewed unless
permission is granted by the museum's Curator of Collections. Images should be
requested by their print identification numbers.
Copyright has been assigned to UC Regents and is administered by UCR-California
Museum of Photography. All requests for permission to publish reproductions from
photographs or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the
Curator of Collections.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original
materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational
(bracket_open) Print number (bracket_close), Keystone-Mast Collection,
UCR-California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside.
Commercial Stereographs by various photographers in the collection of UCR-California
Museum of Photography are works made for hire by numerous stereoview publishers. The
Keystone-Mast Collection is formerly the Keystone View Company.
The Keystone View Company was founded by amateur photographer, B. L. Singley of
Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1892. Taking advantage of the public's curiosity in
viewing disasters, Singley launched the company into the stereo market with sets of
thirty stereo cards that recorded the flooding of the nearby French Creek. The
growth of stereo photography, depicting national and international subjects,
paralleled the emergence of modern America on the world's stage. Other factors which
bolstered stereography's popularity was the novelty of experiencing explicit
three-dimensional detail in a stereo card and the potential for card owners to
frequently revisit views of world events in privateor during social gatherings.
Stereographs were to nineteenth century generations, what television and the
Internet are to contemporary culture, and enabled armchair observers to have
vicarious experiences in faraway places.
Dates attributed to Keystone-Mast images range from late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth
century (with the strengths between 1895 and 1928). The collection is a composite of
several stereographic publishing companies. By 1920,the Keystone View Company
cornered the market by acquiring the negative collections of all major stereograph
publishers such as B. W. Kilburn, H. C. White, Underwood and Underwood, and C. H.
Graves. In 1939, Keystone View Company was marketing over 40,000 stereoview titles.
A large number of sales were generated through the efforts of door-to-door salesmen,
often groups of college students who would canvasentire towns. The stereograph's
combination of educational value and entertainment potential appealed to the
emerging middle-class families. An excerpt from Keystone sales literature states,
"The stereograph gives reality to the World Tour and is exceeded only by the actual
experiences of travel." While this assumption is opento criticism, it remains a
powerful sales incentive today and is one element inthe current popular fascination
with the Internet and World Wide Web [Howard Becker, "Stereographs: Local, National,
and International Art Worlds,"Points of View: The Stereograph in America, A Cultural
History, Edward W. Earle, ed., Rochester: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1979. pp.
89-96. Edward W. Earle, "Millennium: The End of the World As We Know It," SF
Camerawork, (21:2) Fall/Winter, 1994, pp. 12-19. Edward W. Earle, "Millennium," (an
evolving essay on photography, American history, and networked information at
Another sales engine that powered Keystone View Company's success well into the
twentieth century was its marketing ofeducational systems. Schools, libraries, and
other educational institutions were provided with boxed sets of stereo cards at
competitive prices. In 1922, Keystone boasted that every school district in a city
with a population of over 50,000 had the Keystone System for each of its school.
Notable educators, historians, and authors were commissioned as consultants; among
the editorial advisors were the poet Carl Sandburgand Ernest Thompson Seton.
Keystone engaged the popular travel lecturer, BurtonH olmes, to author much of the
company's literature. Inspired marketing and broad ranges of worldwide imagery
perpetuated the stereographs as popular objects for enjoyment and education.
Keystone's stereo publishing reign continued through 1930s.
Finally, production of stereo cards stopped in 1939. The company's production moved
from stereographs to producing instructional lantern slides for schools. Sets of
these 4x5 inch glass-mounted transparencies were published into the 1950s. The
Keystone View Company was sold to the Mast Development Company in 1963. The Keystone
division of the Mast Company continued to manufacture stereoscopic viewing devices
for vision testing. However, they had no market forthe enormous collection of
prints, glass and film negatives. In 1977, Mead Kibbey, a businessman from
Sacramento, California, successfully negotiated the donation of the Keystone View
Company's archive to the University of California. After thirty-eight years of
nearly idle storage, family members of the late Gifford Mast of Davenport, Iowa
donated the collection intact to UCR/California Museum of Photography. In a tribute
to the Mast family, the collection is subsequently known as the Keystone-Mast
In 1990, the collection was moved from the UC Riverside campus into a
state-of-the-art collection room of a renovated 3-story structure, redesigned
specifically for UCR-California Museum of Phototgraphy. The collection will be moved
one final time to the adjacent Art and Barbara Culver Center of the Arts, where the
negatives will bestored in new cabinets on seismically isolated bases.