This week’s look back into our archive might seem curious given the 3D reference. Sure, 3D movies date to the 1950s, and to such early examples as the classic 1953 Vincent Price horror film The House of Wax.
However, as is often the case, our trek to the past leads further back into a technology that was as cutting edge in the 19th century as is digital technology in the 21st century.
Sir Charles Wheatstone invented the stereoscope in 1838. Two images, side by side, were placed on this device, and when viewed through the stereoscope the image appears in a 3D form. The popularity of the device grew rapidly, and by the mid-19th century, there were 250,000 stereoscopes produced and thousands of stereographic cards. Think of the mid-20th century View-Master craze, and you can get the picture, so to speak.
The Fort Lee Historical Society has one of these wonderful stereoscopes and many stereographic cards on permanent display in the . Today, we have great fun showing kids the wonders of 3D via this 19th century device. This is a great way to explain past technology and how it has been carried into the present century while at the same time collecting wonderful 3D photographic images of our past.
Among the collection of stereographic cards we have in the Fort Lee Museum are many of the George Washington Bridge, circa the 1930s, and the Palisades in Fort Lee, circa the later 19th century. Several of these images are on display as part of this archives piece.
So this weekend, if you happen to take your kids or yourself to the movies to see the current 3D hit ParaNorman, just remember that this seemingly new phenomenon has its roots deep in the 19th century, and that technology in fact has been used to document the history of our very own borough atop the Palisades, Fort Lee.