A highly successful stereograph (two identical photographs that when seen through a viewer projects what appears to be a three-dimensional image) distributor, located in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Keystone View Company was the brainchild of amateur photographer Benjamin Lloyd "B. L." Singley (1864-1938). Opening in 1892, the firm sold Mr. Singley's original stereographs, but as business steadily grew, the firm employed several in-house photographers who specialized in these novelty views that became extremely popular with the public in the mid-nineteenth century. Keystone utilized the latest technology to produce stereo views of exotic locales, rural America, and Native Americans. Its Yellowstone Park boxed set, first issued in 1897, continued to sell well into the 1950s. The firm capitalized on the renewed popularity of gold mining in 1897 and provided a breathtaking early view of Alaska in its "Bound for the Klondike Gold Fields." Although stereograph popularity began to decline in the 1880s, Keystone remained a dominant force to be reckoned with in the stereoscope industry by purchasing its competitors (and their broad inventories), most notably B. W. Kilburn, the H. C. White Company, and Underwood & Underwood, whose images were now marketed under the Keystone name.
By the early twentieth century, the Keystone View Company, which was incorporated in 1905, was the lone remaining stereo view distributor, with global offices throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Its Educational Department infused new life into the company, specializing in classroom products and illustrated materials on geography, science, and social studies. At the conclusion of the First World War, the firm retained exclusive rights to photograph battlefields and military installations. During the 1930s, Keystone boasted an inventory of 2 million negatives, and its stereo cards were renowned for their image clarity with text information on the back, and were later mounted on steel-gray curved mounts that became the company's trademark. Keystone's Stereophthalmic Department was added in 1932, and as its name suggests, focused on vision correction products and testing devices.
When Mr. Singley retired as company president in 1936, he was succeeded by Charles E. Crandall and George E. Hamilton. Upon Mr. Crandall's death in 1956, Mr. Hamilton carried on the duties as president until his own death in 1962. The following year, Keystone View Company was acquired by the Mast Company, which continued to manufacture eye products under the Keystone name until the 1970s. Keystone's business correspondence and huge collection of negatives were donated to the University of California Riverside's Museum of Photography in 1978, and its equipment and viewers are on display at Meadville's Johnson-Shaw Museum. In 2017, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst acquired the Keystone boxed set of photographs entitled, "The World War through the Stereoscope."
2017 The Art of Stereography by Douglas Heil (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.), pp. 78-79.
2017 Bound for the Klondike Gold Fields, Chilkoot Pass, Alaska (URL: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-2b84-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99).
2011 Early Maricopa County: 1871-1920 by Jeremy Rowe (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), p. 87.
2014 Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America by Brenton J. Malin (New York: New York University Press), pp. 78-79.
2015 Keystone View Company Stereographs (URL: http://dla.library.upenn.edu/cocoon/dla/pacscl/ead.pdf?id=PACSCL_HML_2011213).
2017 Keystone View Company World War through The Stereoscope Stereographic Library (URL: https://www.rubylane.com/item/61838-559284x20rl10794/Keystone-View-Company-World-War-Through?search=1).
Remembering Crawford County: Pennsylvania's Last Frontier by Robert D. Ilisevich (Charleston, SC: The History Press), p. 118.
2017 World War through the Stereoscope Collection (URL: http://scua.library.umass.edu/umarmot/keystone-view-company).
2007 The Yellowstone Stereoview Page (URL: http://www.yellowstonestereoviews.com/publishers/keystone.html).
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