View-Master (1 Viewer)


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I'm a fan of stereo photography; those old stereo cards from the mid to late 1800s. I have a box full of them and a couple of the old wooden viewers. I even made some of my own stereo photos when I had a darkroom.

But I also like View-Master reels, which work on the same principal. The old reels are really something. They were made mainly as up-to-the-minute images of American cities and parks, but now that many of them are 60+ years old they are like little time capsules. I have a stack of Los Angeles reels here that capture a long gone city - in 3D! Ha.

But Sawyer, the company that made View-Master (before GAF bought them out in 1966 and changed the focus from travel and "cities of the world" to kid's entertainment) also made a lot of story reels. Fairy tales, versions of popular cartoons and whatnot, but they made them in 3D, using little clay sculptures. Some of these, especially the old "Sam Sawyer" reels, are like art. Really worth looking at if you're ever around a freak who has some.

Anyway, I'm posting this because I recently bought two New Old Stock Bakelite View-Master Model E's from the late 50s, and we opened the boxes tonight. It was pretty weird being the first people to pull the brand new viewers out of the boxes they were put into 50+ years ago. They are things of beauty, if you believe in industrial design having an aesthetic quality. I should probably carefully put them back into the boxes and stick them in a time capsule somewhere, but we're going to use them instead. To replace the newer plastic ones.

New Old Stock is a weird and marvelous thing, no matter what he new old stock happens to be. I recently built a 60s style fuzz pedal using some NOS 60s germanium transistors, and they just make a sound that can't be replicated by modern parts. It breaks up more when they are warm (!) so on a hot day the pedal sounds different that it does on a cold day.

This is all apropos of nothing, but there you have it.
I have one of those (at least I hope its still over at my Mum's house with all my other old crap fantastic stuff) with the battery powered light attachment. Jealous? :p

My favourite reel set was the '20,000 Leagues under Sea' one. Damn that was one scary octopus.
Yeah, see, that is one scary octopus! But there are a million little things to notice in those scenes, like dioramas in a museum of weird crap.

I would be jealous of the light attachment if I didn't live on the surface of the sun here. The attachment is good because you can take it off, but they made some that ran on batteries only, no openings to let other light in, and those were useless when your batteries died.

$10 might seem like a lot for that 20,000 Leagues reel, but that's about what they cost, in the dollars of the day; $8 - $10. Funny thing is now you can get most of them for a couple of bucks if they aren't rare. They actually cost less now than they did in 1950 or 60.
my view-master was one of my favourite toys when i was a kid. i think i had an E.T. reel that gave me nightmares, though.
I had a view-master too as a kid. It might very well have been the E-model because it was dark brown. One of the reels I had was about an Indian. No violence, of course. The joy of watching the pics was over way too fast because there wasn't all that many pics to watch in a reel, and they were relatively expensive to buy back then around 1960. That said, they were really something else for a kid back then.
I had a look at the links and it comes as a surprise they're still making view-masters and reels, although they're not from the original company. I'm tempted to buy one and some reels, just for the hell of it. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. :)
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The only one I remember seeing in my (apparently deprived) childhood, was one that my maternal grandmother brought back from a vacation to South Dakota. Mt. Rushmore, The Black Hills, and beautiful open ranges were all right there before our eyes. Grandma was like a world-traveling celebrity after that.

But I wonder how my aging eyes would perceive a View-master now. How's your vision mjp ? I wear reading glasses at 1.75 strength.
I'll bet My old view master is still at my grandmothers house. Man, I loved that thing. My uncle lives there now and he never throws anything out. Mine would of been from the late fiftys and if I remember right, I had a bunch of reals. It would be interesting now to see what they were about. I remember Davey Crockett was one. Thanks MJP for the memories. Next time I'm over that way I'm going to look for that thing.
I loved my old red plastic viewmaster! Looking through stuff, I still have one of those pocket keychain viewmasters from Magic Mountain! The pic inside is of my best friend and his girlfriend at the time, must be from about 1993-1994? They should still do that at theme parks, not sure they do anymore? And 17 years later, the pic looks a bit faded, but with proper sunlight still evokes many memories.
But I wonder how my aging eyes would perceive a View-master now. How's your vision mjp ? I wear reading glasses at 1.75 strength.
I need reading glasses to see things close up too (and even with the glasses I can't see really close things anymore), but the View-Master stuff looks fine. Must be the magnification or something. Is there an eye doctor in the house?
I had this side effect from hours of view-master viewing:

View-master orbs.jpg

and no eye doctor I knew of could help me at all. And yes, that's the same look I had when I rented Swedish Erotica Vol VI in 1986. To think it all started with Andy Panda on the view-master.
Shame there's no cover and insert. Next week I'm going to check if my old set is still around. I suddenly have a strange sad feeling that it won't be.
Nice memories, mjp. My father brought two of those (the classic grey ones) for my brother and me back in 1965, when he made his one and only travel to USA. He also bought nearly 40 reels... Including the '20,000 Leagues Under Sea'! I remember fondly the 'Lost In Space' one, the 'Woody Woodpecker', 'Popeye', 'Madam Tussauds' Wax Museum' (SCARY!) and one about 'Snoopy and the Red Baron' that uses figures instead of comic drawings. Now that Nintendo is going to release a 3D handheld console (without the need of glasses) I'm sure I'm going to retrieve some sort of sweet memories on 3D magic with videogames.
I had a few of those 'view master' when I had a shop and the reels. I had 2 of the wooden ones, one came from my dad with the box and cards.
I also sold one of those antique magic lantern projectors. The slides were glass. Have you ever seen one of those? I sold it for 50., no one was interested.

Yeah, those early magic lanterns ran on kerosene (or candles!). Probably didn't look too magic with such a light source, but they were different times. The wooden stereo viewers and cards still make people go, "Holy shit!" when they look through one for the first time.
I went to garage sales last saturday and I bought a few cds at a dollar each. I came across a cd of the band Tool.
It is classified as a metal band. I am not very knowledgeable about metal, but I was intrigued by the cover. It unfolds as a stereoscope with several pages that you can view. They are quite beautiful. I am listening to it for the first time and I can say that it is not bad, not a head banger kind of metal. I am not sure of what they are talking about, but here is a picture of the cd. It is definitely worth the view, as well as the dollar spent.

000_0013.JPG rajaslive.jpg
It's a beautiful cover, alright! And then they say you can't judge a by its cover.
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mjp: I never noticed your View Master post until today. So let me ask you if you have ever seen this particular reel. It's one I had as a kid (1950s or early 60s) and it haunts me to this day. It was the kind with modeled figures, photographed in 3D, and the story was about a cat going to Mars (or the Moon?). The cat wears a clear bubble type space helmet. God, I'd love to see that again. It was my favorite, and it's the only one I still remember.
A cat? I'll have to check. It could be a Sam Sawyer reel...the only other ones to use the modeled figures were fairy tales and religious stories, and neither of those involve going to Mars, as far as I know (not literally, anyway).
Yeah, the one cell I recall in any detail is a scene of the cat stepping out of a rocket ship and onto the surface of Mars. It had a look not unlike the scene you linked to as an example of the Sam Sawyer reels. I wouldn't be surprised if it was part of that series.

I have some of the old stereo photo cards from the 1800s, and a wooden viewer or two, inherited from my antique collecting parents who specialized in photography. One of the cards has a full lenth photo of Mark Twain in a white suit. It's like he's standing there before you, in the flesh.
That Twain card is valuable if it's photo and not litho. I have old cards and viewers too, even did some primitive stereo photography myself back when I had a darkroom. Some people have a hard time focusing on the old cards at first though, but everyone can see through a View-Master.
I think the Twain card is an actual photo, not a litho. It's been a while since I looked at it. I can view the stereo cards without using a viewer, doing the crossed eyes trick.

My favorite old author genuine photo is an 1859 German edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Marble Faun, with a tipped in real albumen print of Hawthorne as a frontispiece, as well as many other real photos that are tipped in throughout the text, the whole thing bound in gold tooled vellum. Nice book.
Digging around looking for some puzzles for my grandson, I found a couple old View Master viewers today, along with a few reels. No doubt there are more buried in the many boxes of old toys in our house. I set them aside -- this thread has me curious. It's been decades since I looked at one of those 3D reels.
Well, there's no cat in a space helmet in Sam & the Flying Saucer Pirates or Sam Flies to the Moon, so it must be some other weird series. Though I don't know of any other diorama style reels that were space-based. Most of them were fairy tales.
yeah, I know. They got me on a different promotion, A global music festival this coming weekend. I don"t mind if the show is good. enjoy your reels.
Well, there's no cat in a space helmet in Sam & the Flying Saucer Pirates or Sam Flies to the Moon, so it must be some other weird series. Though I don't know of any other diorama style reels that were space-based. Most of them were fairy tales.

I'm pretty sure that cat was wearing a space helmet, but I'm positive he was stepping out of a rocketship and onto either the Moon or Mars. Or maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing?

Could this be some super rare reel that only a few people remember but no one can find now, the Write magazine of 3D?
It could be. But as you might guess, the reel collectors are an obsessive bunch. Their lists are pretty comprehensive. But I'm sure the space cat that you remember is out there. I know I would like to see a diorama reel of a space cat, so if I ever come across it I'll let you know.
Thanks. If I can find out the series name and reel title, I'll try to buy a copy on eBay. I'd love to see it again. I was a kid when I had it, in the 1950s or early 60s.

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