There are 11 unusual stereoscopic views mounted on cards in the archival collection of the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum. By virtue of their age, the local scenes they depict, and their uniqueness, these photos represent a significant visual resource for local and marine history.
The images all date to the late 1870s, likely c. 1878, as indicated by the construction of the Third Welland Canal apparent in most of the photos. Construction for the Third Canal began in 1875 and was completed in time to open in 1881. Included in the images are depictions of the excavation for the new guard lock in Port Colborne, dug between the Second Canal lock and East St. and the excavation for the new weir channel, between the Second Canal lock and West St. In addition, several of the photos show the temporary trestle bridge for pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles which spanned the new lock excavation from the end of the swing bridge to East St., or were taken from that bridge.
The cards have two copies of the same photo right next to each other. These cards, or stereographs were placed in a holder at the end of the stereoscope and the user could adjust the card as they looked through the viewer to focus the image. They are based on binocular vision, a process of the brain that enables a person to view two slightly different images with each eye, which the brain turns into a 3-D image. Stereoscopes and stereoscopic views first became popular in the 1850s. Commercial production of both the viewers, or stereoscopes, and the stereoscopic views reached into the millions until the 1920s. People today might be more familiar with the children’s toy, the View-Master, which uses the same principle as the stereoscopes.
These stereoscopic views or cards appear to be handmade. While commercial stereoscopic views were taken with a special camera with two lenses slightly apart, it seems these cards were made with two copies of the same photo. The prints were trimmed and pasted onto cards to make it possible to view them through a stereoscope. Some of them were slightly misaligned when the photos were pasted on the cards, such as "Tied up along west harbour wall," 986.82.236.The condition of most of the stereoscopic prints is poor, and the original image quality varies quite a bit.
These stereoscopic views originally belonged to DeWitt Carter, a local tug captain, tug owner and businessman. One card, 986.82.246, depicts the tug, Maggie, which Carter owned for a while, and on the back of that card, he has written “My Maggie.”
Stereoscopic Viewer or Stereoscope Details