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On the Porch

One of my favorite holiday movies to watch every year is “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday,” which was released in 2004 as a television movie. The movie is based on the “American Girl” children’s books written by Susan S. Alden and Valeri Tripp. The film is set in 1904 and follows young, wealthy Samantha Parkington’s adventure with three poor orphaned girls. In an early scene in the movie, Samantha receives a present from her uncle Gardner. The present she receives from her uncle is a stereoscope with stereographs.

Stereographs, an early form of three-dimensional photographs, were a major tool for education and entertainment in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th centuries. The stereograph, otherwise known as stereogram, stereopticon, or stereo view, was the 19th century predecessor of the Polaroid. Placed on cardboard were two almost identical photographs, side by side, to be viewed through a stereoscope or stereo viewer, 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 1895 that “the first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereo-scope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced. The mind feels it way into the very depth of the picture.”

Many of the stereographs displayed images of faraway lands, making the travel experience available to the general population through photography. Its affordability and availability made stereography a wide spread phenomenon spanning more than 60 years. Most of the stereographs were produced in the 1870s and were produced up through the First World War.

The photograph featured this week from the Lyon County Museum’s collection is a stereograph of Lake Marshall near Marshall, circa 1890. “Views in and about Marshall, McGandy Photographer and Publisher, Messenger Block, Marshall, Minn.” is printed on the back.

Holiday Fun Day at the Museum is today from noon-3 p.m. at the Lyon County Museum, 301 W Lyon St, Marshall. Join us for holiday treats and refreshments, lefse, live music, specials in the museum’s gift shop, crafts, and more. Special guests, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the museum from 1-2 p.m.

The Lyon County Historical Society (LCHS) is a nonprofit, member-supported organization. LCHS operates the Lyon County Museum at 301 West Lyon Street in Marshall. The Lyon County Museum is open year-round to visitors. To contact us, visit our website: www.lyoncomuseum.org, call: 507-537-6580, email: director@lyoncomuseum.org, or on our Facebook page.

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