This mammoth collection of proof sheets for stereoview cards, manufactured by the H.C. White Company, measures 23 ¼” x 15” x 2”, and with its heavy covers, must weigh 15 or 20 pounds. Overall, the album is in very good condition. The exception is the cover: there is a faux leather reinforcement on the binding which has flaked off in places, and triangular reinforcements on the opposite corners, again of faux leather, also have sustained a bit of loss. The corners are dog-eared.
The interior of the album is in very good condition. The pages have yellowed a bit, but the photographs, all intact and in good condition, retain their rich dark tonality. Would a buyer would select a view and, sometimes from as many as 28 different iterations of the same view, each slightly different in composition or exposure. H.C. White would then produce the chosen card as a stereoview for the buyer to resell. Or was this made for H.C. White, who then would choose which photos to print for resale? There are 1421 original photos and 425 different views.
The H.C. White Company was located in North Bennington, Vermont, and according to one source, was “one of the premier makers of stereoscopes (claimed to [be] the largest maker in the world) and the two-sided photos used to present a 3D image of a scene.” In 1907, around the time of the production of this album, H.C. White contracted for an almost 16,000 sq. ft. addition to its factory complex, a building which was a precursor to the “clean rooms” used in the tech industry today. The complex, much of which remains, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The album is divided into two sections: the first, consisting of 42 pages, shows views in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. On 41 pages, there are 24 views per page, laid out with immaculate spacing, each line with six views, four lines per page. The 42nd page has 19 views, for a total of 1003 views in the first section A second section of the album presents views of “Scandinavia,” a notation which is written in pencil at the top of each page. There are 19 pages in this section, the first 18 of which have the standard 24 views per page. The last page has only ten views, for a total of 418 views in the second section, and a grand total for the album of 1421 photos for the album as a whole. The photos appear on one side of a page only. The verso is blank.
The subjects are many and various. Public buildings, many of them instantly recognizable, are frequent, as are views of famous tourist attractions. We see Canterbury Cathedral, Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford, Stonehenge, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament. Many rural scenes depict waterfalls and parks of country estates, village scenes and interiors of humble cottages. In Scotland we get Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument on Princess Street, among other views. Ireland brings scenes along the rocky coast, and some notable views of The Giant’s Causeway. And of course throughout there are scenes of lochs and lakes and boating on the Thames.
Street life, harbor views, and depictions of local color complete the offerings. In a number of photos, a human figure occupies the foreground, perhaps to give a sense of scale.
One large set of photographs features The Forth Bridge, across the Firth of Forth outside of Edinburgh. Completed in 1890, the bridge was at that time the longest single cantilever bridge in the world, and it remains a wonder of steel construction. There are 40 views of the bridge, taken from several different angles. 3 abstract photographs of the steel girders that make up the bridge are especially noteworthy.
This writer is less familiar with the scenes in the Scandinavian portion of the album. A number of the photos appear to have been made in Norway: scenes of mountain valleys and spectacular fjords, waterfalls and cascades rushing down hillsides, an ice cave. Fishing villages and a three-masted schooner leaving a harbor, street scenes, parks and palaces and government buildings all are represented. No doubt Helsinki and Stockholm are two of the cities depicted..
The album offers both a modified version of The Grand Tour, northern European leg, and a glimpse into the way photography changed the world, shrinking the globe and offering a glimpse of what was on the other side. An ancillary benefit is a peak into the way that photography became a profession and a business. So the album provides both an interesting, if accidental travelog and gives some insight into the history of photography as a commercial endeavor.
Status: On Hold