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To advance the knowledge of stereoscopy and enhance its enjoyment by encouraging its members to view, and to offer constructive feedback about, each others' images.

The Stereoscopic Society of America:
A Short History

By Norman B. Patterson

The Stereoscopic Society was originally established in England in 1893 by a small group of active stereo photographers to circulate their work among the membership by means of postal folios. It is now the oldest surviving stereo organization in the world whose common roots are shared by independent offshoots in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the parent organization in the United Kingdom. As in the beginning, the members are united by a love of creating three dimensional images and sharing them with others. This sharing is accomplished by postal folios in which each member of the circuit has entered a stereograph for the other members to view and comment upon.

When a folio arrives, a member of the circuit views and comments on each of the entries of the other participants. His or her own view, which has traveled the circuit and has been commented on by the other members, is removed and replaced by a new entry. The folio then continues its endless travels around the route list. The success of the concept of the Stereoscopic Society can be judged, it would seem, by its survival ... which has now enjoyed more than a full century of activity.

The Stereoscopic Postal Exchange Club was founded in 1893 and in 1896 the name was changed to The Stereoscopic Society. The American Branch of the Stereoscopic Society was organized early in 1919, just after the end of World War I, by Walter S. Cotton, then of Portland, OR (and later Los Angeles, CA). It had initially about 10-15 members, it would appear, including Walter¹s wife Rose Cotton. At that time stereographs were in the form of monochromatic prints mounted on 3 1/2 x 7 " cards. Such prints circulated for many years in domestic as well as international folios and until mid-century were the mainstay of the Society. Allowing for wartime interruptions, this activity continued well into the 1970s when it was “modernized” in order to adapt to changes in photographic methods and materials.

In 1951 the OX group was inaugurated in England to circulate transparencies. Although large size B&W transparencies had been appearing in the regular folios, the appearance of color transparencies, primarily in the Realist style mounts, had opened a new door. Some traditionalists demurred, but most other members started playing with the new system, at least as a sideline in their hobby. The OX folios accepted Realist format (transparency pairs mounted in 4” x 1.625” mounts) and it became, almost immediately, the universal choice of the circuit members in America, Australia, and New Zealand as well as the United Kingdom. The American Secretary for this endeavor was Mr. Richmond Strong of San Francisco, CA, who thereby formed what still exists as the American Alpha Transparency Circuit. These OX folios are still operating as envisioned.

Independent, but related, branches are still in full operation in the four countries as the Society continues into its second century doing what it was designed to do ... enjoy 3D imaging by making and sharing stereo views.

The American Branch in 1977 affiliated with the National Stereoscopic Association and in 1990 changed its name to The Stereoscopic Society of America. It is about equally active in both print and transparency formats. A new Cyber Circuit is exploring the realm of computer 3D and its place in our future, much as the OX circuits did for 35mm color film a half century ago.