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01-12-2022, 05:22 PM - 9 Likes   #1
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The View-Master thread

Hello,

Not sure if this should be here or in the General Talk section, so feel free to move if needed.
If you were born in the 20th Century, chances are that a View-Master was part of your childhood. This iconic 3D viewer and its reels were our window to the world. Without knowing it, for many of us it was most likely our first contact with Kodachrome, the iconic slide film used in these reels.
The concept of 3D photography is almost as old as photography itself and we can find many contraptions and designs for this thru history.
The original concept of what was to become the View-Master we know was a round paper reel with 7 pairs of Kodachrome stereo images. The original viewer was released in 1939 by the Sawyer's company of Oregon. It was a clamshell design where you placed the reel inside. These was eventually known as the Model A. This company was a big producer of post cards among other photography related items. The initial market was scenic photography. During WWII the US used thousands of View-Masters for training purposes.
The Model B was launched in 1944. It was similar to the model A (clamshell design) but it was made of bakelite, which was a more stable material than the original which was prone to warping.
In 1946 the Model C viewer was launched and it was the first to be loaded into a slot from the top. This became the basic viewer layout for decades to this day. This model C was made until 1955.
In the early 50's the company purchased a competitor and was able to secure the rights to Disney, an important milestone.
From 1955 forward, numerous other models and accessories were introduced. Eventually the company is sold and goes thru different owners. It actually resides in the Fisher Price line under Mattel. Needless to say, millions and millions of reels have been produced for over 80 years.


Here is my Sawyer's Model C viewer with it's original box. According to my research it is a late model C from around 1950.










The popular Model L was launched in 1977 and it was made for well over 2 decades. (The K1000 of View-Master? )

Here is my blue model L
I paid a whopping $1 for this at a flea market a few years ago.
This particular one was made in Mexico in 1998.




And of course at one point or another there has to be a "I'm not normal" moment, so here it is: The advance lever, while still working, no longer springs back into position.
So I tried to repair a $1 View Master.

Sure enough the pin that holds the spring broke off.


So it was superglued in place.


However, it broke off again shortly after so now I'm adding a brass reinforcement.


To be re-re-assembled and tested shortly.

My favorites reels are those scenic sets from other locations. I just got a 3 reel set of Texas-The Lone Star State from 1960.
What's your View-Master story? Show off your viewers and reels! Any favorite reels?

Thanks,
Ismael

01-12-2022, 05:47 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I have none now, but had one as a kid. As I recall you would go to a store like Woolworths, (dime store, or five and ten) as we called them and they would always have a small section of Viewmaster slides. But even more fascinating to me, I remember we would go to visit one aunt and uncle that had an old stereoscope. I think it was older than they were, the pictures seemed to be from 1900 and maybe before. My aunt and uncle were pretty old then, but they were fun to visit, I can remember them playing comedy records, playing games, telling jokes, a lot of laughter.
01-12-2022, 05:57 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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I always thought it was strange when Henry Fonda did TV commercials for Viewmaster, thank to Youtube we can see them, how many commercials had two Oscar winners in them, but of course Jodi Foster hadn't won one yet when this was made.

01-12-2022, 08:07 PM - 1 Like   #4
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The Viewmaster was a big part of my childhood. Ours was white but i have no idea what happened to it and its many slides. Jodie was right - many slides were educational.

01-13-2022, 06:00 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
chances are that a View-Master was part of your childhood
Thanks for posting this. Very enjoyable thread. As a child of the 70s, of course I had one. I remember it being red and your thread made me wish I still had it!

Fantastic photos as well.
01-13-2022, 09:15 AM - 1 Like   #6
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I had a beige/light grey one in the late 60's and loved it. I was really into science, the space race and all things military (my father was an ex Royal Marine Commando (WWII era)) and my favourite discs included subjects like the NASA space programs, The Royal Navy and one covering ICBMs (this was at the height of the 'Cold War').

I also had a great tour of the luxurious Queen Mary cruise liner and a scenic tour of The Alps. I also had many multi-disc sets including several covering Disney movies/cartoons.

My mother bought herself one of the talking View Masters when they were first released but didn't use it much and it just gathered dust in a closet!
01-13-2022, 09:40 AM - 2 Likes   #7
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I was well into View-Master when I was about 7 years old and eventually received a View-Master projector (though not a stereo one) as a Christmas present. It was one of my favorites for a long time until I loaned it to friend of mine who dropped and broke it. I marveled at its ability to project these huge images (by my then standards) onto a screen in all those colors (Kodachrome). It served as an inspiration for one of my later careers as a projectionist, and certainly paved my way into photography (and later, 3D photography)

Many of the View-Master reels I had were fairy-tale like stories, and lacking the CGI we have today, they were made with sets and small carved or molded characters for the 3D effects. They had "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (Disney), "Aldan's Magic Lamp", and others which spanned multiple reels with thrilling images (to the younger age group) and fantastic stories. I lost quite a few of these to fungus when they were stored in a damp location, but I still have over a dozen which work very well with the Kodachrome holding its colors to this day (even after use with my projector).

The View-Master system was a marvelous toy of simplistic construction by today's standards, but its value to someone of my age at that time would challenge any phone-type entertainment that exists today with none of the risks to children the internet poses, and it serves as a reminder of the true ingenuity of that past age.

What better a thread to have here in the Vintage Cameras and Equipment section? Thanks Ismael!


Last edited by Bob 256; 01-13-2022 at 09:49 AM.
01-15-2022, 01:22 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Oh man, so cool !
01-21-2022, 04:59 PM - 1 Like   #9
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Thank you for a fascinating history.
01-21-2022, 09:59 PM - 2 Likes   #10
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Hello,

On today's installment of this adventure:
The original, The Model A

The original View-Master debuted in 1939. It was made from "Tenite"; a thermo-plastic material developed by Kodak Chemical division. Sawyer's started producing them while the patent were still in process. So the earliest models did not have any patent information other than saying "Patents Applied For". The patent was finally granted on Feb 6, 1940.
Here is an image from the public US Patent office website:

As soon as the patent was granted, the molds were updated. Also, from what I have researched, the initial ones had larger lenses compared to the later ones with patent info.
However, the Tenite is a material that is very prone to warping. Even during this first production run it was a problem and thicker ribs were used trying to control the warping.
This first model became known as Model A and was built from 1939 to 1944.
In 1944 the Model B was launched and was very similar, but made out of bakelite as a better and more stable material.
Models A and B are the only ones with a clamshell design. From Model C forward, the now iconic top loading slot was used.

My specimens:
So I have 2 Model A viewers: One that is slightly warped but still works and one that is really warped.

From this angle, it doesn't look that bad, does it?


But if you turn it around... Yikes!






The second one is in far better condition:




But still a bit warped.



However, it still works




Looking at these pictures, they are due for a deep cleaning session.

Both of these have patent information so they were made after Feb 1940.

I hope you like this.

Thanks,
Ismael
02-02-2022, 02:54 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote

My favorites reels are those scenic sets from other locations. I just got a 3 reel set of Texas-The Lone Star State from 1960.
What's your View-Master story? Show off your viewers and reels! Any favorite reels?

Thanks,
Ismael
Hello Ismael,
I have been a collector of vintage stereo gear for many years, including Viewmasters. Thank you for your post.

As far as my favorite reels? I grew up in the 60s so I would pick the Star Trek sets (3 reels each) as that was my favorite show at the time. Your post has me planning to pull out my brown & beige storage cases full of reels to browse them again this weekend.

QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote
In the early 50's the company purchased a competitor and was able to secure the rights to Disney, an important milestone.
For anyone browing the thread, the competitor was the Tru-Vue Company of Rock Island, Illinois. Their motto was 'life-like pictures with depth'. They had a 35mm film strip system with 14 views each. Mostly black & white but a few color films late in their history. As a point of trivia, after Sawyers bought Tru-Vue they operated both companies side-by-side for several years before finally shuttering Tru-Vue.

I don't want to hijack your thread (too badly) so I'll leave it here with a quick snapshot of a viewer with packaging and a film inserted on the right. This particular set likely dates from the late 1930s.

Robert
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02-02-2022, 03:12 PM - 1 Like   #12
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This is fascinating stuff, Ismael!

I remember having a red version of one of these as a child, with several "discs"... What a blast from the past, and so much more interesting with the info in your posts. I'll read through all of this in more detail with my morning coffee
02-02-2022, 04:14 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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Wasn’t there a place online that would make new discs from existing digital images?

I seem to remember wanting to use my stereo adapter to make some shots to put onto a viewmaster disc.

That would be a really cool way to do family photos…

-Eric
02-03-2022, 01:17 AM - 1 Like   #14
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I had one of these as a kid. In fact I think we had several (I was youngest of six!). Every so often I come across one last battered disc. I'm avoiding buying anything as I can see yet another collecting rabbit hole opening before me...
02-03-2022, 06:57 AM   #15
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Hello,

QuoteOriginally posted by Riggson Quote
I don't want to hijack your thread (too badly) so I'll leave it here with a quick snapshot of a viewer with packaging and a film inserted on the right. This particular set likely dates from the late 1930s.

Robert
Hi Robert! Thank you! By all means please post away! That is my intention with this thread: To share some 3D love!
Nice TRU-VUE! Like you mentioned, TRU-VUE was View-Master's main competitor. There were a few other smaller ones as well. Sawyer's acquired TRU-VUE in 1951 and moved it from Illinois to Oregon. It was manufactured until the 1960's. I haven't looked in detail but it was probably discontinued when GAF bought Sawyer's in 1966 or shortly after. TRU-VUE was key as it had the rights to Disney.


QuoteOriginally posted by TwoUptons Quote
Wasn’t there a place online that would make new discs from existing digital images?

I seem to remember wanting to use my stereo adapter to make some shots to put onto a viewmaster disc.

That would be a really cool way to do family photos…

-Eric
Hi Eric, Yes, the company is image3d.com I have seen some mixed reviews as apparently the reels are very delicate. I'm looking into that as a possible family gift. I'll report back if I go that route.


QuoteOriginally posted by womble Quote
I'm avoiding buying anything as I can see yet another collecting rabbit hole opening before me...
RUN! Save yourself! Or not!
It may be too late for me to be saved!
I have a few more related bits to share as soon as I get a chance.

Thanks,
Ismael
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