Underwood & Underwood “Perfecscope” stereoscope with stereograph of “Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, N.Y.”
First developed in the 1850s, stereographs became a major form of popular entertainment during the late 19th century. When viewed through a stereoscope—a handheld optical device or stationary viewer like the “Perfecscope” shown here—two nearly identical images merge into a single three-dimensional one. The images were issued in collectible series, often with geographical themes. The Library’s collection contains more than 70,000 stereo views, including 3,659 of Manhattan alone. This example shows the Angel of the Waters fountain, or Bethesda Fountain, in New York City’s Central Park. Completed in 1868 and designed by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to be commissioned for a major public work in New York City, the statue celebrates the 1842 completion of the Croton Aqueduct, discussed nearby.
Currently on View at Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
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