Toronto. Over the years people have christened their weird and wonderful optical marvels with odd names like “stereopticon” for a mechanical projector of 3D and 2D images. When I looked up the definition of the name in a dictionary, it was described as, “ a slide projector that combines two images to create a three-dimensional effect, or makes one image dissolve into another“.

This particular stereopticon was found reported in the February 1920 magazine “Electrical Experimenter“. The device was made and marketed by General Electric as the “Owen Automatic Stereopticon“.  A patent for a similar device with a vertical slide tray (USPTO No. 1,296,583) was assigned to Frank L Oleson of Chicago in 1919. The number  of mechanical components in both designs suggest the trouble-free “life time” operation was a bit optimistic.

Frank L Oleson patent for an Automatic Stereopticon c1919

It’s easy to see why this cumbersome machine disappeared when 35mm transparencies and projectors hit the market (perhaps even earlier). My thanks to my good friend George Dunbar for bringing this bit of photographic history to my attention.

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