Stereo Cards

United States in Stereo: The Birth of American Tourism

Sara Rose is a Curatorial Intern in our collections department and a first year graduate student in the Library and Information Science program (Archives Management Concentration) at Simmons College. Throughout the summer she has assisted us in our ongoing digitization efforts and online collection social media projects. She shares some insight below about some of the objects she's been working with during her internship. 

 

Summer. A time of warm weather, long days, and of course, vacations. Whether it’s a day trip a few towns over or a weeks-long vacation across the country, Americans have had a long love affair with summer tourism. In the late 1800s there was a dramatic rise in recreational tourism throughout the United States. The newly completed trans-American railroad made interstate travel accessible to the masses, many of whom were increasingly located in urban regions after industrialization. As urban Americans flocked to the seashores and wilderness for leisure, tourism became a profitable enterprise.

National Parks, seaside resorts, and other tourist attractions promoted vacation travel within the United States. Photography played a key role in the development of national tourist attractions, making it possible to mass distribute images showing various places of interests and inspiring wanderlust for the American countryside. Below are just a few examples of this kind of tourism promotion from the over 300 sterocards in the  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.

2010_055_277DS1This stereocard, titled “Grandeur of the Waters,” showcases the famed waterfalls of Niagara, New York. Visible on the left side of the photograph is a group of tourists taking in the view.

 

 

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Another stereocard, titled “In Surf, Sand, and Sun,” depicts throngs of beachgoers on the shores of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City, one of the earliest resort cities in the United States, has remained a popular destination for summer tourists to this day.

 

2010_055_175DS1This final stereocard shows a street lined with cottages on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Signs can be seen offering summer rentals to the crowds of tourists who flocked to the Vineyard for vacation, as well as laborers looking for seasonal work.

 

To learn more about stereocards in our collection visit our previous blog posts here.

Captions:

Grandeur of the Waters, Niagara Falls, N.Y., 1905, H.C. White Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.277

 In Surf, Sand and Sun, Atlantic City, N.J., 1905, H.C. White Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.163

Fourth Avenue Campground, Martha’s Vineyard, 1873. Unidentified, USA. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.175

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"Look Before You Leap!": Highlights from the Stereocard Collection on Flickr

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.]

88_42_89aDS1 88_42_89bDS1These 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/.

Captions:

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.


President William McKinley: Fraternity Man and "Idol of Ohio"


William McKinley (1843-1901), the 25th president of the United States, was born on January 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio. At the age of 58, shortly after being re-elected to his second presidential term, he was shot in the chest twice at close range while attending the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. Gangrene set into his wound and he died eight days later on September 14th, 1901, in Buffalo, New York. McKinley is one of four presidents assassinated in our country’s history.

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The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns several interesting artifacts related to the death and memory of William McKinley. McKinley was a Freemason like many presidents before him. He received the first three degrees at Hiram Lodge No. 21 in Winchester, Virginia, in 1865, during his Civil War service. According to a story recounted by General Horatio C. King (1837-1918) at a New York banquet in 1906, McKinley witnessed a friendly exchange between a Union doctor and some wounded Confederate soldiers. When the doctor imparted to McKinley that the soldiers were “Brother Masons,” McKinley is quoted as stating “...if that is Masonry, I will take some of it myself.”  He returned to Ohio and affiliated with Canton Lodge No. 60 and Eagle Lodge No. 431, later renamed William McKinley lodge No. 431. Fellow Mason Horatio C. King's story about McKinley's interest in Freemasonry was allegedly rooted in a conversation he had with McKinley in Washington, D.C., just months before his assassination.


McKinley could be described as a fraternity man due to his active involvement in local fraternal groups including: Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Grand Army of the Republic, Military Order of the Loyal Legion, Knights Templar, Royal Arch Masonry and Knights of Pythias. In a 1959 biography by Margaret Leech (1893-1974) McKinley is described as a "great joiner with a keen sense of group loyalty." McKinley went on to have a storied political career serving as an Ohio state Congressman from 1877 to 1891 and as Ohio's Governor from 1892 to 1896. One hundred and twenty years ago this year, he won his 1896 presidential bid with Garret Hobart (1844-1899) as Vice President. 2013_036_49DS1

Before his assassination in 1901, McKinley was invited to a Templar reception hosted by California Commandery No.1, Knights Templar, in San Francisco, California. He accepted the invitation and included a visit to the reception as part of a previously planned national tour with his ailing wife Ida (1847-1907). He made stops in El Paso, Denver and Los Angeles on his way to San Francisco. On May 22nd he addressed a crowd of twelve thousand people including fourteen hundred Knights Templar. He thanked his "Brother Masons" and spoke about brotherhood in the context of  American citizenship and the preservation of liberty. He and his wife returned to the White House on May 30, 1901, and he died three months later.2013_036_48DS1

A national mourning period for McKinley produced many commemorative memorial artifacts like the mourning poster above and these stereocards. The images in these stereocards show the Knights Templar marching in McKinley’s funeral procession in Canton, Ohio, on September 19, 1901, and floral wreaths for his funeral service at the Church of the Savior United Methodist Church. To learn more about another McKinley mourning object, a 1901 commemorative glass platter, see our previous blog post here.

To see political textiles from William McKinley’s  presidential campaign visit the museum to view the exhibition Who Would You Vote For? – Campaign Banners from the Robert A. Frank Collection, which is on view through December 10, 2016.

Captions:

We Mourn Our Loss, ca.1901, unidentified maker, United States, Museum Purchase, A76/023/7.

President McKinley Memorial, 1901, B.W. Kilburn, Littleton, New Hampshire, Gift of Michael T. Heitke, 2013.036.49.

Knights Templar at President McKinley's Funeral, 1901, The Whiting View Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, Gift of Michael T. Heitke, 2013.036.48.


References:

Ray V. Denslow, William McKinley: Soldier, Statesman, Freemason, President, 1949, Trenton, MO: reprinted from Proceedings of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Missouri, 1949.


Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

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A Civil War Masonic Military Lodge

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Interior View of Rustic Masonic Lodge, 1863, Sam A. Cooley; E.W. Sinclair, Folly Island, South Carolina, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.94.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In its collection,the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has a number of Masonic and fraternal artifacts related to American Civil War history. Freemasons were among the thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers fighting throughout the four-year conflict. This stereocard shows a Masonic military lodge that was reportedly photographed in November 1863 on Folly Island, South Carolina. It was not uncommon for Masons in the military to form military or traveling lodges during times of war.  The 1st New York Engineer Regiment is believed to have established this particular lodge. They constructed the lodge with materials found on the island. This  photograph is one of the most unique Masonic lodge images in our collection.

Military lodges were usually connected to specific units. These lodges received a special dispensation from the Grand Lodge of the state in which the regiment was organized in order to be chartered and recognized as a lodge. Like other lodges, military lodges needed “volume of sacred law”, most likely a bible, and “working tools” commonly used in ritual, like a square and compasses. 

In 1861, the Grand Lodge of New York passed a resolution granting dispensations for military lodges with a stipulation that no men from outside of New York could be made Masons without the permission of the Grand Lodge. In addition, the dispensation had to be recommended by a lodge in the state and bear the names of seven petitioners. Many Grand Lodges granting dispensations for military or traveling lodges were concerned about how these lodges and their operations might impact the integrity of Freemasonry.  In 1863, due to overwhelming jurisdictional issues and questions about legality, New York passed a resolution against the "further establishment or continuance of military lodges."

These special lodges were just one of the many ways that Freemasonry was visible during the Civil War. For more information about our collection as it relates to Freemasonry during the Civil War please visit our previous blog posts at: http://bit.ly/1HD7som

To see this photograph and others from our collection on our HistoryPin map please visit:  http://www.historypin.org/en/person/64613  

 

References:

Halleran, Michael A., The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2010.

Ross, Peter, A Standard History of Freemasonry in the state of New York, New York: The Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.

Hyde, William L., History of the One hundred and twelfth regiment, N.Y. volunteers,Fredonia, NY: McKinstry, 1866.

 

 

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Skeleton Leaves and Phantom Arrangements

2010_076_1DS1 The National Heritage Museum recently received a gift of four stereocards titled Skeleton Leaves and showing the same leafy arrangement shaped like a Masonic square and compasses symbol. One of the cards is shown here (for more on stereocards, see our previous post). I was struck by how quintessentially Victorian this image seems and became curious about the story behind the image.

According to the card itself, the publisher was John P. Soule of Boston. Soule was born in Maine in 1828. City directories for Boston from the late 1850s tell us that Soule was a partner in the firm of Rogers and Soule, Printsellers. Soule’s partner was none other than John Rogers (1829-1904), the sculptor whose “Rogers Groups” would become popular decorations in many Victorian homes. By 1859, Soule was identified as a “photographist” in the Boston directory. He went on to publish a number of stereocards in the 1870s, including this one. In 1888, Soule moved to Seattle; he died in 1904.

The Masonic symbol shown on the card is perhaps the most recognizable sign of the fraternity. The square and compasses represent reason and faith. The letter G in the center stands for God, geometry, or both. While this symbol was used on all sorts of objects during the late 1800s – from furniture to ceramics – this representation is done in a specific medium – that of skeletonized leaves (also called “phantom leaves” or “phantom bouquets”).

Instructions on how to pursue this type of project were provided in numerous late-1800s household guides and ladies’ magazines. For example, the March 1870 issue of The Lady’s Friend reprinted directions from an 1867 issue for skeletonizing leaves “at the special request of new subscribers.” The writer acknowledged the popularity of this activity, “These Phantom Bouquets are more beautiful than could be believed by those who have not seen them…We had not thought that anything so dainty and airily graceful could be preserved in this way.” To make one of these arrangements, the leaves were gathered while green and then soaked. The “green matter” had to be rubbed off the surface of the leaf, leaving the “fibrous network” or skeleton of the leaf. Once the leaves were thoroughly dry, they could be bleached and then formed into an arrangement.

This stereocard notes that an I.L. Rogers registered the image at the Library of Congress in 1873. Reportedly, a Mrs. I.L. Rogers of Springfield, Massachusetts, patented an improved method for skeletonizing leaves in 1877. While we were particularly interested in this image because of its Masonic content, a number of stereocards were available during the late 1800s showing other arrangements of “skeleton leaves,” primarily non-Masonic and decorative.

Have you ever tried skeletonizing leaves? Do you know more about Mrs. I.L. Rogers? Do you have a stereocard showing a “phantom arrangement”? If so, let us know in a comment below!

References:

“John P. Soule Family,” http://familystacks.com/custom/views/fam/S02.htm.

The Lady’s Friend 7 (March 1870): 202-206.

Routledge’s Every Boy’s Annual, London: George Routledge and Sons, 1866.

Skeleton Leaves, 1873, John P. Soule (1828-1904), Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Ronald T. Labbe, 2010.076.1.


Are the National Parks Better in Stereo?

88_38_25DI1 Andrew Stereo cards, also known as stereographic or stereopticon cards, were among the most popular photographic media in the United States from the 1860s to the 1930s.  A stereo card consists of two virtually identical photographs of a given subject that are mounted side-by-side on a rectangular card.  When viewed through a special device known as a stereoscope, the two images would project a single, larger, three-dimensional image of that subject.  The National Heritage Museum has almost 200 stereo cards in its collection, including several that depict national parks in the western United States.

Both of the stereo cards pictured here show scenes from Yosemite National Park in California.  The first shows the Fallen Monarch, a deceased giant sequoia tree that can still be seen today in Mariposa Grove at Yosemite.  The card was published in 1908 by the Keystone View Company, one of the leading American suppliers of stereo cards in the early twentieth century.

This stereo card is a relatively uncommon example, because it is a hand-colored photograph.  Photographers in the late nineteenth century occasionally hired artists to tint a black-and-white image with watercolors, oil paints, or dyes.  While hand-coloring was something of a novelty for American photographers, it was very popular in Japanese studios during this period.

The second card, published in 1867 by the noted early Western photographer Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916), also shows a view of Mariposa Grove at Yosemite.  Typical of the stereo cards of the American West in the Museum’s collection, it is not hand-colored and does not depict any people.  Instead, its primary focus is the majesty of the Western landscape.  Although there were no true national parks in 1867, when this photograph was taken, California had already set aside part of the Yosemite Valley as a state park.  In 1890, Congress established Yosemite as a national park.88_38_62DS1 Andrew

Viewing stereo cards was a common pastime during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Many upper- and middle-class Americans living in that period owned a stereoscope.  Ultimately, however, stereo cards declined in favor of newer technology. Handheld cameras like the Kodak Brownie, invented in 1900, allowed anyone to take snapshots of their favorite scenes.  By the time that the Keystone View Company ceased its regular production of stereo cards in 1939, motion pictures were already enormously popular with the American public.  Stereo cards were unable to compete with the social, cultural, and audiovisual experience of going to the movie theater.
  
To see photographs of the national parks as they appear today, please visit our current exhibition, Treasured Lands: The Fifty-Eight U.S. National Parks in Focus, which is on view through October 17, 2010.

References:

Burns, Ken, and Dayton Duncan. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. New York: Knopf, 2009.

Gilbert, George. Photography: The early years: a historical guide for collectors. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Runte, Alfred. National Parks: The American Experience. 3rd ed. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

"The Kodak Brownie at the Franklin Institute." The Franklin Institute History of Science and Technology. The Franklin Institute, 2010, http://www.fi.edu/learn/sci-tech/kodak-brownie/kodak-brownie.php?cts=photography-recreation, accessed March 31, 2010.

"Welcome to Carleton Watkins Stereoviews." Welcome to Carleton Watkins Stereoviews, http://www.carletonwatkins.org/, accessed February 28, 2010.

Top: The Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove, 1906, Keystone View Company, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, United Kingdom, Australia; collection of the National Heritage Museum, Gift of William Caleb Loring, 88.38.25.

Bottom: In the Mariposa Grove, 1867, Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916), California, collection of the National Heritage Museum, Gift of William Caleb Loring, 88.38.62.