Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the California Stereograph Collection
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (94.99 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Table of contents What's This?

Collection Contents

Box 1

Series : I
California Stereocards 1906-1925

Physical Description: 1 box

Scope and Content Note

The California Stereograph Collection consists of seventy-eight cards published by the Keystone View Company, Underwood & Underwood, the Union View Company, and other small publishing houses. Stereograph views were produced in the millions by photographers all over the world. Invented in England, the novelty and attraction of stereograph formats spread across Europe and the U.S. Card stereographs were first commercially produced in 1854 by the London Stereoscopic Company. The stereograph view is a double-image photograph mounted on cardboard. Noted photographers such Edward Muybridge, B.W. Kilburn, and J.J. Reilly became well known for their stereographic work, though only a few of the images in this collection can be attributed to J.J. Reilly, who later became quite famous for his photography of Yosemite.
Stereographs provided a very popular entertainment medium predating television and film. Stereograph companies produced stereographic box sets packaged with spines that resembled classic book bindings. Stereoscopic views ranged in subjects and include topographic views, local history, events, industries and trade, urban and country life, portraits of famous people, and box sets depicting World War I and World War II. The box sets ranged in size from 50 to 200 images per box, and were viewed through a stereoscope, which produced a unique three-dimensional (3-D) effect. The collection represented here documents the natural landscape of California, San Francisco, and Yosemite. The images depicting San Francisco include the 1906 Earthquake, the Cliff House, and Ferry Building. Images of California include Catalina Island, Mount Shasta, various California Missions, including the Mission Santa Barbara, the Mission Hotel in Riverside, Mission Park San Diego, Stanford University, agricultural processing and packing, and other miscellaneous views of California. The views of Yosemite include some photographs taken by J.J. Reilly of Half Dome, Glacier Point, Bridal Veil, El Capitan, and Vernal Falls. This set contains some hand-colored photographs, but the collection is an artificial collection, where the collector purchased individual cards and organized them in similar subject categories defined by Keystone and Underwood. The cards are contained in an Underwood Company box.
Stereographs span 80 years of early photographic practice and are an important source for students and scholars interested in researching the history of different photographic mediums, including glass transparencies, albumen prints, silver gelatin prints, and other mediums. From a historical perspective stereo views have tremendous research potential for those interested in understanding the perceptions of the photographers' and audiences' in capturing visual memories of the physical and contextual world from different eras.
The collection is arranged into one series: Series I. California Card Stereographs, 1906-1925.


This series is arranged by subject.