The stereograph, otherwise known as the stereogram, stereoptican, or stereo view, was the nineteenth-century predecessor of the Polaroid, with an imaginative flair. Placed on cardboard were two almost identical photographs, side by side, to be viewed with a stereoscope. When viewed through a stereoscope, the photograph appeared three-dimensional, an awe-inspiring illusion for anyone during that time.
The author Oliver Wendell Holmes, who invented an affordable stereo viewer for the American market, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly of June 1859 that “the first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereoscope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced. The mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture. The scraggy branches of a tree in the foreground run out at us as if they would scratch our eyes out. The elbow of a figure stands forth as to make us almost uncomfortable.”
These stereographs are highly posed, though even more sentimental. Some are rather cute and a couple are even quite risque for the time. Unfortunately these reproductions from the Library of Congress only show half of the stereograph, losing the effect. Nor are they the best quality, being fairly old, black and white copy negatives. Still, pretty fun!