1800s Inventions for Andi

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Christmas 1878

I was so disappointed not to be able to portray Mary until Christmas was well on its way out. Sure, the pageant was lovely, but on New Year’s Eve? Really? Besides, I was still so tired after my bout with scarlet fever that Chad had to carry me out to the surrey when it was over. While all the healthy folks (even Cory!) headed down to the Fresno House for a swell New Year’s Even celebration, our family went home. I reckon they didn’t want me to be left alone with Luisa while the rest of the Carters stayed in town.

But I am straying from the good part of our Christmas! I had barely recovered from scarlet fever, but Mother allowed me to leave my bed and come down to Christmas Day dinner and the gift celebration. I perked up a little bit when I opened my gift from Justin. A brand-new stereoscope!

Sure, I know what a stereoscope is. We have a battered one on a special end table in the parlor. Lots of folks don’t have this marvelous invention, so Mother has always been generous with letting people “ooh” and “ahh” over the pictures you see when you look through the eyepieces. Sadly, however, a few young guests tore some of the picture cards in half, making them useless. Another picture card ended up with a big scratch. Looking at that one always gave me a headache. Then worse, one naughty little boy cracked the handle just last summer.

I guess Justin saw how disappointed I was over that. When I opened the box and saw the new stereoscope, along with a dozen brand-new picture cards of places and people I had never seen before, I squealed and threw myself into his arms. “Thank you, Justin! Oh, thank you!”

“Well, look here,” Chad teased. “We now have something to keep the invalid in bed for at least another week.”

I agreed wholeheartedly and for once was quite content that I could not spend the holidays riding my filly Taffy around the ranch. No, the new stereoscope will keep me quiet and satisfied until I am completely healthy. I thumbed through the picture cards, counting them. Not a dozen, but two dozen, and most of them in colors! That was new, as the old cards were mostly in black and white or a funny, brownish (sepia) tone. Justin must have spent a lot of money on this gift. I would keep it nice for as long as I lived.

I am not sure how a stereoscope works, but each card has two pictures, pretty dull, actually. The two pictures look like any other photograph. But . . . when you set the two-pictured card in the holder and then look through the eye pieces, the picture almost jumps into your face. It looks like a real scene, a real place, and real people . . . right there! I can look at the same picture cards over and over. I like to imagine what the children are doing and then think up a story about them. Some of my new picture cards show places like Egypt. The pyramids make it seem like I am right there looking at them instead of on the other side of the world. One picture card has Eskimos from the far north. What a marvelous invention a stereoscope is!

Some of my picture cards

What is a stereoscope?

A stereoscope is a device that lets a person view left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene and merges them together into a single 3-D image. The stereoscope like Andi received was invented by the author Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1859. This kind of scope could be held in one hand and the pictures switched out with the other hand. By 1870, nearly every American city had a picture-card seller, who often went door to door selling the cards.

A stereoscope has two lenses for the eyepieces, each one a little different. The lens for each eye makes the image seen through it a little larger and farther away, and sometimes a slight horizontal shift. When looked at, the scene looks like “stereo” vision. It was a wonderful invention for that time. This is the Holmes stereoscope, with an easy-to-hold wooden handle.

A Modern Stereoscope

Stereoscopes were popular for over a century. And what do you suppose came next? The View Master. This popular toy is a spin-off (and an improvement) of the first stereoscope? How many of you have ever seen or owned a View Master? It’s the exact same principle, but pictures come on a round disk and you need only click down on the handle to see the next picture. Created in 1939, it got lots of improvement by the time 1962 rolled around. Mrs. M can’t remember if she owned one or not, but for sure her children did (in the 1980s). Mrs. M even liked looking through it and marvel at the way the pictures seemed alive.

What’s next? I’m sure you all know. The stereoscope of the 19th century and the View Master of the 20th century are forerunners of . . . Virtual Reality Goggles. I have used my grandson’s VR goggles to fight a battle with droids on the docking bay of a Star Destroyer. It did not go well for me but it was an awesome experience anyway! I also took a roller coaster ride via the VR goggles and started feeling sick. It was that real to me!

I’m sure the feeling I had about the VR was the same thrill Andi experienced when using her “VR” stereoscope. What about you? Any stereoscope, View Master, or VR goggle experiences here? Comment and share!

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

29 thoughts on “1800s Inventions for Andi

  1. When I was a lot younger, my grandma had a View Master. It was my favorite thing to play with when my family would come over. My siblings and I would always hunt for it in her “toy closet” and see who would find it first.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We actually have like 5 View Master. No one really uses them except my little sister and my cousins, so they’re just sitting around. That was a really cool post Mrs. M!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We used to have a view master! They are awesome!!
    We also have a vr mask so I put my phone in it, put it on one of my siblings, then they sit in a chair that can turn from side to side. Then I put the roller roster VR on and a spin them around!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I have never owned a View Master, but I have done the 3D movie (In Six Days.) at Ken Ham’s Creation Museum. The glasses that you use for the movie look similar to the eye piece of the Stereoscope. The Stereoscope also reminds me of Little House on the Prairie🙂, because in some of the episodes the Olsen’s use a stereoscope!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s cool! We were just there in May for the Homeschool conference! Maybe they will have
        the Christmas lights up at the Creation Museum. I have been there for the Christmas walk. It’s really neat!🎄✨


  5. My grandpa used to have one and I would play with it whenever we visited him. He died about two years ago and it was sold at his estate sale. I don’t know who bought it. It was fun to look through it.


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