While photography was still in its infancy, stereographic theory was already known, and it began to be developed in various forms by several early photographers. The stereo viewers and stereo cameras were also being developed at the same time, to meet the needs of the various forms of stereographs.

The hand held stereoscope on the left is in the Holmes style. It was invented by Oliver Wendell Holmes around 1860, and was a huge success for decades. Meanwhile, cameras with multiple lenses and faster exposures made stereography a booming business. Photographers were sent out to photograph the world in 3D, and the photographs were reproduced over and over to meet the demand.

Manufacturing and assembling the views was a big business. Photographs that were popular were often reproduced for many years. Copyrights often changed hands, negatives were sold, popular themes were imitated. People wanted to see everything.
Teddy Roosevelt at his desk.
You can still get these old views and viewers at almost any antique store. It's estimated that over 7 million different images were commercially produced, and these had runs anywhere from a handful to thousands! The card stereograph died out around 1940.
1893 Columbian Exposition.
Then the View-Master took over the market, with its views mounted on a circular reel. These views were on color slide film. In the 1950's, there was a resurgence of 3D popularity. Cameras like the one shown here on the right were popular and the average person could take slide film stereo photos and view them with special lighted viewers. Even 3D movies were popular, using various methods to obtain the 3D effect.
But what about stereo photography today? There are a few special cameras out there for taking stereo photographs, and you can still buy old 1950's models, but it's hard to get the film developed and printed the way you want unless you do it yourself.

I have stereo cameras, several old viewers, and tons of old stereographs. I used to take stereo pictures and mount them side-by-side, like the old stereo views I was used to. But I found a great new viewer that lets me take my photographs with any camera and mount them without any trimming, allowing more of the view to be seen. It's a very SIMPLE and INEXPENSIVE way to take beautiful stereo photographs.

Visit my "How To" link to learn how to photograph and mount your stereographs, and discover the world of Stereo Photography!

Some lovely examples of 19th century tabeletop stereo viewers.