Tuesday, September 26, 2023

How to View Stereo Cards in 3D

An antique wooden stereoscope holds a stereograph photo of a young girl clinging to a white-draped cross. A small bit of wood is missing from the stereoscope and has been replaced by white paperboard.

A friend asked me to explain on my blog how I view all these 3D pictures, so here is a post about that. First, here's a picture of my real, old-fashioned stereoscope. This particular one is marked on the bottom that it's a "Saturn" Scope, with patent dates of October 15, 1895 and February 1, 1896. It's a version of the Holmes stereoscope, which was invented in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. and deliberately not patented. Mine is missing a little piece of wood at the end of the part that divides the two views, so I've attached a bit of paperboard so each eye doesn't see the edge of the opposite view. Paper stereograph cards--the one shown here is the original of the last recolor I blogged about--sit in a holder that slides backward and forward to focus. Unfortunately it's easy to slide it all the way off, and therefore a lot of stereoscopes end up for sale without it. I have a second stereoscope that came in an eBay lot with this one, but it's missing both the card holder and the handle. I haven't yet tried to restore that one, beyond popping the glass lenses back in after they got knocked out during shipping. 

Carved into the bottom of a wooden stereoscope are the following words. Trade mark. The "Saturn" scope. James M. Davis. 21 Washington Place, N.Y. USA. Sole agent. Patented. U.S.A. Oct. 15 , 1895. Canada Feby 1, 1896. France B.S.G.D.G. Great Britain Germany Austria and Belgium.

Anyway, the general idea is that if you have two pictures taken from about as far apart as the distance between our eyes, you can show each picture to the correct eye and your brain will register the combination as a 3D object instead of a flat one. The first stereoscope, designed by Charles Wheaton in 1838, was a complicated affair involving mirrors and hand-drawn images. With the development of photography and the invention of the cheaper Holmes stereoscope, though, the technique became an extremely popular form of home entertainment. So many paper stereo cards were produced that a large number survived and are still available today. Prices vary wildly, and if you want something specific you might be in for a long search, but as antiques go they're quite accessible.

A smartphone displays a colored stereograph of a young girl clinging to a white-draped cross. Attached to the phone is a minimalist black plastic viewer consisting of a pair of lenses and a plastic clip.

It's not always convenient to get out a fragile, antique device, and the stereoscope needs good lighting. So more often I use this handy little modern gadget to view digital copies on my smartphone. Any headset compatible with the unfortunately discontinued Google Cardboard works, but I prefer this minimalist version I got on Amazon for $6.99. Here's a link to it; it's not an affiliate link or anything, I just haven't found anything cheaper or more effective. The product description doesn't make a lot of sense, but judging from the reviews I'm not the only one who likes it for viewing stereographs. To use it, just load the picture on a phone in landscape mode (turn on auto rotate) and clip the viewer right on the line between the two sides. Hold it by the phone and not by the viewer so as not to knock it out of alignment, and look into the lenses as if they were a pair of binoculars. Since this model has open sides, it's easy to swipe from one picture to the next. You can also zoom in and out to focus if necessary. And it folds up to about the size of your palm, so it's portable, too. I've had more than enough fun out of mine to justify the price, so I definitely recommend getting one of your own. 

A minimalist black plastic 3D viewer is shown folded up for storage. It fits easily in a hand.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Stereo Card Recolor--Simply to Thy Cross I Cling (1900)


I found this lovely stereograph card on eBay a while ago, and I colored it in Photoshop but didn't post it right away because it was so tricky to sort out the boundary between the painted backdrop and the girl's hair. Finally I decided to check it over it one more time and then go ahead and share, so here it is. I really like this card and have not seen it anywhere else.

This stereograph has a strong resemblance to one I blogged about earlier, here, ultimately based on a painting by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel. It seems to have been a popular design to copy; several other companies put their own spin on it. I've collected a few of them and find it fascinating just how much variety there is even when they're clearly copying each other. This particular version was published in 1900 by Griffith & Griffith. Since it's a photo and not a painting, the 3D effect is much more convincing than in the 1896 card. The cross is not made of rock--it appears to be cloth-draped wood--but the title is still a line from the song "Rock of Ages." The girl is younger than in many other portrayals; since she's understood to be a personification of Christian faith, I suppose that makes this one childlike Faith.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet--Pocket Size


A large 8.5x11 book sits next to a small 4x6 book as a size comparison. Both books are A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet, by Kate Greenaway and Elizabeth Staab Van Deusen. The cover is blue and pink, with an illustration of a large pie and four small children with baking supplies.

I thought A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet would make a cute mini book, so this summer I formatted a 4" by 6" pocket size version. It's a lot more portable than the original 8.5" by 11" book. The extra stuff in the back that I excluded from the ebook because of unreadably small print was also left out of the pocket size version, though, so you'll have to get the full-size book if you want a historical tour of the A Apple Pie nursery rhyme. The more streamlined mini book still has the same information in the back about Kate Greenaway, about me, and about the nursery rhyme, just without the example pages from other old books. Unfortunately the black-and-white picture of Kate Greenaway's dog also didn't fit, but that meant I could include the photo of Kate herself in its original sepia instead of having to make it grayscale to match. And I think she looks more natural and friendly in sepia. Anyway, I am quite pleased with how the mini book turned out. Find it on Amazon here

An American Girl Kirsten doll with blonde braids and a blue flowered dress holds a small book. The book is A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet, by Kate Greenaway and Elizabeth Staab Van Deusen. The cover is blue and pink, with an illustration of four young children with baking supplies and a large pie.

This size of small book makes a perfect prop for 18" American Girl and similar dolls, so I got out my Kirsten doll to take some size comparison photos. My son was pretty goofy about having to sit next to her, but I wanted to show how well the pocket size book fits Kirsten compared to how the original book fits a real child. It's a fun option to have available.

A laughing small boy kneels next to an 18" doll as a size comparison. The boy is holding a large 8.5x11 book and the doll is holding a small 4x6 book.

A small boy sticks his tongue out at an 18" doll. The boy and the doll are each holding an appropriately-sized matching book.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Temple of Fancy Paper Dolls--Little Fanny and Little Henry


Little Fanny, published in 1810, is known as the first mass-produced paper doll. I believe that means she was the first printed and sold as a children's toy; older paper figures with changeable outfits are said to have been hand painted for adults. Anyhow, Little Fanny was sold by S. & J. Fuller at a London art supplies store called the Temple of Fancy. The Princeton University Library has posted an old advertisement here with a picture of the inside of the store. 

Bryn Mawr College has shared a nice, printable version of Little Fanny, with detailed instructions about how to put her together, here. I used that as a base and made a few slight fixes, most notably replacing the arm on Fanny's doll. Her companion Little Henry needed a bit more help--besides some unfortunate damage to Henry's sword and other projecting bits, Bryn Mawr's copy only had two of his six hats. I went to some trouble to restore these dolls by finding the missing parts from other sources, so I'm making my versions available as well. 

I have them printed on normal paper and glued onto paperboard I grabbed out of my family's recycling bin, but you can print them on cardstock if you prefer. If you use cut-up packaging like I did, you'll want to glue the dolls onto what was the inside of the box; it holds glue better than the outside and won't show through if you add spray gloss. Below is a picture of the back of my dolls. I labeled each piece with the doll's name and both the publication year and the year I constructed these particular copies. I used the inside of an empty wrapping paper tube as backing paper to make pockets to hold the heads on, but any thick paper should work fine. I lined the backs of the heads with it too, mostly because the printed paperboard isn't easy to write on. The spray gloss I used on the front made a few spots on the paper, but that doesn't matter because the back is already pretty funny-looking. 

I also made little paperboard stands by cutting three identical rectangles, folding two in half, and then gluing the folded pieces on top of the flat one and trimming the stand to the desired height. If you want stands, make sure to put glue only on the bottom piece. To use the stand, just slide a doll in between the unglued bits that stick up in the center.

I'm enjoying this style of paper doll more than I expected to--the detachable heads are a little weird at first glance, but they stay in place more firmly than tabbed paper doll clothing. The danger, of course, is that if you lose the head there's not much point playing with the outfits on their own. These pages have two heads included for each doll, in case one gets lost.

These characters also had rhyming storybooks to accompany them; you can read The History of Little Fanny on the Internet Archive here and The History and Adventures of Little Henry here. The stories are... well, they're very 1810. To a modern eye they are quite strange. It's an interesting bit of history, though.

I made PDF files of these that might be easier to print. Download Little Fanny here and Little Henry here

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Stereo Photos--Orange Daylily


I took these photos several months ago, but I just found them on my phone and put them together in 3D. I was very pleased at how well they turned out, too, especially since it was my kids' favorite flower that my husband accidentally cut down with a weed eater not long after I photographed it. They were all happy to see that I managed to save these pictures of it.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Stereo Photo--Venus Flytrap

My family bought a little Venus flytrap plant at Sprout's this week! My kids named it Speed Eater Buzz, or Buzz for short. Obviously I couldn't resist making a 3D picture of it, and that turned out pretty well, so I decided to share it. To view it in 3D, load this picture in landscape mode on a smartphone and put the phone in any device that would work with Google Cardboard (I do miss Google Cardboard). We're all enjoying our new "pet," though I have to dissuade the kids from watering it too frequently. It's even caught a couple of flies by now. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet--Kindle EBook


Happy Pi Day! I decided it was the perfect day to format A Apple Pie: An Active Alphabet as a Kindle eBook, so here it is. An earlier blog post describing this book is here. I removed the selection of historical examples from the back of the eBook version--most of the text in those would have been too small to read--so the paperback is a better choice for those who are really interested in the historical background. But the eBook is a fun, less expensive option for those who want to check out the combination of Kate Greenaway's classic illustrations and my own quirky accompanying rhymes.