Cat photos: not just an internet sensation

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In the 1830s, Sir Charles Wheatstone developed stereoscopy, which is a technique that uses two slightly different images, one seen by the right eye, and the other by the left, to create a three-dimensional experience for a viewer.  His stereoscope used mirrors and drawings, but it was large and bulky.  Over the next half-century, many improvements were made.  David Brewster created the first model with lenses, allowing for a smaller original image and therefore a smaller apparatus.  This model was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and became a favorite of Queen Victoria.  The trend caught on, and in the late 1850s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., developed a hand-held model which was much more affordable, allowing any middle-class household to own a stereoscope.

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The subject of stereo cards ran the gamut.  Images of travel were popular, like this example from Niagara Falls.

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Images of events were also in high demand.  This image may have been from a US Centennial celebration.

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Hometown scenes, many times of family or residences, were also of interest.  This card shows the Court House in Norristown.

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And certainly the most fun theme was the pun or joke stereo card, as seen with these fashionable cats.

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You didn’t really think Grumpy Cat was the first feline beloved by the American public, did you?

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1 Comment

  1. Latest issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine has an article on the photographer Harry Whittier Frees who made a lot of these animal in costume photogrpahs in the early 1900s. Love the one with a cat, in dress & apron, at a dollhouse iron stove!

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