Stereocards, also known as stereoview cards or stereographic views, are comprised of two identical photograph prints mounted on card stock. They are viewed through a stereoscope in order to produce a three-dimensional image. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns over 200 stereocards and has added many of them to our new stereocard album on Flickr. [Please visit our Flickr page to see a selection of detailed stereocard images from our collection,including these two cards from a series titled “Look before you Leap!” Lodge 9581.]
These stereocards, produced by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, feature a comic depiction of a Masonic initiation. Photographer Alfred Silvester (1831-1886) created the original photographic series in 1860.
The Look before you Leap! series included three stereocards: The Initiate!, The Ordeal!, and The Obligation! This particular series has several editions, including some tinted with color. There is an advertisement for this specific stereoscope series in an 1859 edition of Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts. The short ad is titled “Masonic Mysteries” and touts “these extraordinary slides should be in the possession of every one who desires to gain an insight into the secret rights of Freemasonry…”
George S. Nottage (1823-1885), a former Mayor of London, founded The London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, with his cousin, Howard John Kennard (1829-1896) in 1854. The company was active through 1922 and functioned as a photography studio and supply company before specializing in the mass production of stereoscopic photographs. To find out more about other stereocards in our collection see our previous blog posts here. Or visit our online collection at http://www.srmml.org/collections/online-collections/.
The Initiate!, 1860, Alfred Silvester, photographer; London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company; publisher, London, England, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.89b.
The Ordeal!, 1860, Alfred Silvester, photographer; London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company; publisher, London, England, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.89a.