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Historic Rochester in 3D Stereoscope

November 25th, 2013

3D Stereogram of High Falls (c.1885) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
From the 1850′s to the 1930′s stereograms were considered cutting edge home entertainment technology. Two photos taken at the same time from slightly different angles would be view together using a special set of lenses called a stereoscope. The result would be an ever so subtle (yet mind-tingling) simulated 3D view…

A stereoscope was used to view 3D stereograms. The Holmes Stereoscope was the most popular one in the 19th century. [PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons]
The Holmes Stereoscope (shown above) was the most popular one in the 19th century.So how does this magic work? It basically mimics your own eyesight.

When you look at something, your left and right eyes are viewing slightly different angles of the same scene. Your brain then puts the two separate images together to give you a sense of depth. Go ahead and close one eye… now open it and close your other eye really fast. Notice how the scene shifts from left and right? That’s the built-in stereoscope in your head. Ok, stop it. Silly.

Remember those View-Masters external link from when you were a kid? Those came about in 1939, introduced in 1939, four years after the advent of Kodachrome color film made the use of small high-quality photographic color images practical.

A stereogram of High Falls (c.1885) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
The Rochester Public Library has an awesome collection of these vintage stereoscopic images. The one shown above is High Falls (c.1885). What? You don’t have a stereoscope?! DAMMIT! Oh, wait… I have Photoshop! YAY!

It turns out we can simulate the effects of a real stereoscope by flashing the left and right images over each other really fast. Our brain does the rest for us. It’s not quite the same as viewing the photos in a real stereoscope, but it’s still pretty cool.

Caution, if you have had epileptic seizures before, you might not want to proceed!

3D Stereogram of Sibley, Lindsay, & Curr Co. department store, c.1870. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Interior of Sibley, Lindsay, & Curr Co. department store, c.1870.

3D Stereogram of Lower Falls (c.1870) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Lower Falls (c.1870)

3D Stereogram of High Falls (c.1870) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
High Falls in winter, from the back (c.1870)

3D Stereogram of Rochester City Hall (c.1870) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Rochester City Hall (c.1870)

3D Stereogram of Powers Building grand staircase (c.1870) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Powers Building grand staircase (c.1870)

3D Stereogram of the home of Congressman Freeman Clarke, 224 Alexander Street (c.1870) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Home of Congressman Freeman Clarke, 224 Alexander Street (c.1870). This mansion would eventually become Rochester Homeopathic Hospital, and later Genesee Hospital.

3D Stereogram of Rochester Free Academy... now the Academy Building (c.1874) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Rochester Free Academy… now the Academy Building (c.1874)

3D Stereogram of 333 Lake Avenue (c.1874) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
333 Lake Avenue (c.1874)

3D Stereogram of West Main Street, downtown Rochester (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
West Main Street, downtown Rochester (c.1875)

3D Stereogram of Powers Fire Proof Building (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Powers Fire Proof Building (c.1875)

3D Stereogram of Rochester Atheneum and Mechanics' Association Library (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
The library at Rochester Atheneum and Mechanics’ Association (c.1875). This was the forerunner to Rochester Institute of Technology which began as a result of an 1891 merger between the Rochester Athenaeum (a literary society), and the Mechanics Institute. The name of the merged institution at the time was called Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). In 1944, the university changed its name to Rochester Institute of Technology.

3D Stereogram of Monroe County Court House, Main Street, Rochester (c.1880) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Monroe County Court House, Main Street, Rochester (c.1880)

3D Stereogram of Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875)

3D Stereogram of Chapin's Monument at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Chapin’s Monument at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875)

3D Stereogram of CJ Haydens Monument at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
CJ Haydens Monument at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875)

3D Stereogram of Pitkin Vault at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875) [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Pitkin Vault at Mount Hope Cemetery (c.1875)

BTW, if you ever want to see a real stereoscope in action, pay a visit to the George Eastman House external link.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 25th, 2013 at 7:43 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Responses to “Historic Rochester in 3D Stereoscope”

  1. Paula says:

    Earthquake effect…

  2. Jeanette tahou says:

    This is great. It’s like a window into the past. I want to study every picture

  3. Ruth Nederlk says:

    Loved the photos but not the shaking. Qeezy stomach.

  4. Jeff W says:

    You can get the same effect by doing the “Magic Eye” cross eye trick if you have just the two static pictures right next to eachother.

  5. Charlotte Kieltyka says:

    To reduce the earthquake effect considerably ….. just blink your eyes quickly as you watch each photo or ….. more slowly, move a sheet of paper or cardboard back & forth in front of the photo.


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