Thursday, October 19, 2023

Time-travel to Japan and an aluminum Perfecscope

The late-model Perfecscope is mostly made out of aluminum. By 1900 aluminum had become relatively cheap, and a viable alternative for the wood and leather these things would previously have been made of. Another more-modern trait of this stereoscope or stereoviewer is that the hood and lens-holder parts are also glued together.

That gluing makes this about as far as it can be taken apart for cleaning, without resorting to more drastic measures (e.g. boiling water). The handle-bracket had been bent out-of-shape, but fortunately could be bent back without breaking.

The wire-loops that hold the stereocard on the sliding holder were lost probably decades ago - instead there were bendy lengths of brown electrical-wire. These were pulled off and replacement loops were bent from an old knitting-needle. Nickeled copper fuse-wire might have been better, and easier to work, but this'll do. (Knitting-needles are plentiful in thrift stores and are a useful source of odd-size rod material.)

The velvet rim around the hood had come apart and was also very dirty. This rich purplish-red is probably a decent match, taking into account how much the original is faded.

Glueing a ~1/2" wide length of red velvet around the rim (glue-stick glue) finishes the stereoviewer, and makes the aluminum hood much friendlier on the face.

The bottom of the stereoscope states it is an H.C. White 'Perfecscope', with a patent date of October 15, 1895. That would refer to US patent 548,149 by Hawley C. White himself. In this patent he claims an improved shape of the hood to better match the contour of the face with the benefit of reduced light-leakage. (Manufacturing such an improved shape is probably made easier by using aluminum.)

The decorations on the hood also have the medallion of the Exposition Universelle of 1900 with a small image of the Grand Palais. The slider has an extra patent date in 1904, so this Perfecscope specimen probably dates from some time between 1904 and, say, 1914-ish.

 Today it's again ready for viewing stereoviews - ready for Virtual Reality time-travel to a century ago :-)

Slotting some old stereoscope cards in the holder's new knitting-needle guard-loops, and it transports you right to early 20th century Japan!:


  1. Beautiful and cool! I have a newer version, a book of sterogram geological topography with magnifying goggles designed to rest on the pages. Once upon a time I played around with snapping my own still-life pictures very carefully and making my own 3D images. If done correctly, it works brilliantly! Back in the day, 3D 35mm film cameras were mildly popular. Someday I'd like to get my hands on one of those 3D USB cameras. Old tech becomes modern fun!

    1. Oo that's very cool, making yr own 3D images; now that's a thought for a little project, making new stereocards for this viewer :)