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Stereoviews of the
Smithsonian

Institution Building






The Castle

Selected Objects from the Smithsonian's Castle Collection

 


"Picture Gallery, Smithsonian Institute."

1858
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.75"
SI.2004.020

By: American Stereoscopic Co., Langenheim, Lloyd & Co.

View of the Picture Gallery in the Upper Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking toward a corner of the room which contained a copy by John Gott of the ancient Greek statue the "Dying Gaul." Behind the statue, hung salon style, were the portraits of American Indians and Indian Life painted by artists John Mix Stanley and Charles Bird King. The Smithsonian's guidebook listed 152 paintings by Stanley and 139 by King on exhibit in the gallery. Title inscribed in the lower right corner. Paper label on back:


American Stereoscopic Co., Langenheim, Lloyd & Co. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1858.



"Drawing room at the Smithsonian."

1862
Albumen print on paper, cream colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 7"
SI.1980.092 A

By: Titian Ramsey Peale

View of the parlor on the second floor of the Smithsonian Building. The Smithsonian's first secretary Joseph Henry and his family lived in comfortable rooms furnished fashionably in the tastes of the day. Henry, the only Smithsonian Secretary to live in the building, resided here with his wife, three daughters and son from 1855 until his death in 1878. This photograph is one in a series of four photographs taken by noted artist and friend of the family Titian Ramsey Peale. They were presented as a gift to Mrs. Henry and daughter Mary from Mrs. Peale as noted in a handwritten inscription on the back:


Drawing room at the Smithsonian, Misses Henry with compliments of Mrs T. R. Peale July 31 / 62.



"The Smithsonian Institution"

1869
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.1997.057

By: Bell & Brother

View of the Smithsonian Building from the northwest showing the grounds as planted according to A.J. Downing's plan of 1851. Downing had laid out the grounds with curving and interlacing carriage and foot paths among plantings representing all the varieties of trees indigenous to the United States. Downing's naturalistic Pleasure Grounds, as he named it, remained until its replacement in the 1930's by the current linear, formal design. The card is inscribed on the back with a brief history of the Institution and:


Photographed and Published by Bell & Bro., 319 Penna. Avenue, Washington, DC. Entered according to an Act of Congress, AD 1869 by F.H. Bell, in the District Court of the District of Columbia.


"Smithsonian Institution"

ca. 1872 - 1874
Albumen print on paper, the cardboard mount is yellow colored on front, pale salmon colored on the back
4" x 7"
SI.1992.004

By: Daniel R. Holmes

View of the Smithsonian Building taken from the northwest. This view, with six of the building's nine towers visible, brings to mind the strong negative reaction to its design by noted scholar Dr. Francis Lieber who stated:


Massive turrets and battlements, taken from a time when all fought with all and each with each, seem to me droll for a fabric destined for those who have buckled on the armor of knowledge and are eminently missionaries of peace.

The card is inscribed on the front:

D.R. Holmes, Photographer, John Wallach, Publisher, Washington, D.C.

Daniel R. Holmes was in business under the name "D.R. Holmes" between the years 1872-1874. A paper label on the back reads:

"90. Smithsonian Institution."



"The Corridor of the Smithsonian Institution."

1869
Albumen print on paper, salmon colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.1992.006

By: Bell & Brother

View of the Lower Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building (now the Great Hall) looking east with a man reading a book while leaning on an exhibit case. The hall was filled at the time with natural history specimens such as birds, mammals, and fish as well as fossils, minerals, and anthropological artifacts. The hall was 200 feet long by 52 feet wide at the time, however, it has since been shortened by 60 feet in length. The card is inscribed on the back:


Photographed and Published by Bell & Bro., 319 Penna. Avenue, Washington, DC. Entered according to an Act of Congress, AD 1869 by F.H. Bell, in the District Court of the District of Columbia.


"Animal Curiosities in the Smithsonian Institution."

1872
Albumen print on paper, salmon colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2004.017

By: Bell & Brother

View of the Upper Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking toward the northeast showing the initial installation of the plaster casts of pre-historic mammals in the hall. Predominant in the view is the plaster model of Megatherium, an extinct South American sloth. The model was made by Henry Ward, owner of Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York. The railing with decorative bronze stanchions having cast miniature mammals on top were also made by Ward. The armadillo-like figure in the background was a fossil of Glyptodon sic, (Glyptodont) a pre-historic South American Armadillo. Labeled on the back:


Animal Curiosities in the Smithsonian Institution. Photographed and published by Bell & Bro., No 319 Penn. Avenue, Washington, D.C. .


"Bedroom in the Smithsonian Building"

1878
Albumen print on paper, pale green colored cardboard mount
4" x 7"
SI.1980.092 C

By: Thomas W. Smillie

View of the bedroom in the southwest corner of the east wing second floor of the Smithsonian Building. The rooms of the apartment were furnished throughout with fine Brussels carpeting, gas lighting fixtures, steam radiators for heat, and damask window valances, all reflecting the status of the Henry family in Washington society.



"100 Meteorites in the Smithsonian Building"

ca. 1872 - 1879
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.1992.005

By: James F. Jarvis

View of the mineralogy exhibit in the west wing of the Smithsonian Building taken from the center of the room looking toward the southeast corner. A large meteor, described as resembling an "immense signet ring," sits on a wooden platform surrounded by several other examples of meteorites and other large minerals. The shallow exhibit cases in the background surrounding the room were specially designed to hold the mineralogy collections. The minerals remained in the hall only until about 1879 when they were moved to the west range. The west wing then became the ceramic hall (see image SI.2003.074). Inscribed on the front:

Photographed and Published by J.F. Jarvis, 479 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.
Views of Washington & Vicinity

The title of the view is printed on a paper label attached to the back.



"Group America, Smithsonian, Washington"

ca. 1879 - 1885
Albumen print on paper, tan colored cardboard mount
4.25" x 7"
SI.2003.074

By: Continent Stereoptic Company, New York

Stereo view card showing the west wing of the Smithsonian Building when it held the ceramic collections. The sculpture group America modeled by John Bell Esq. for Henry Doulton & Co., London and exhibited in the 1876 Centennial dominates the scene. The sculptural group was an exact replica of one of the marble corner pieces of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, London. Visible in the background is a terra cotta pulpit also by Henry Doulton & Co. and directly in front of the America group is a hand carved terra cotta baptismal font. The card is inscribed on the front:

Descriptive Views of the American Continent, Continent Stereoptic Company, New York, 1001 Group America, Smithsonian, Washington



"Smithsonian Institute"

1865
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.75"
SI.2005.004

By: George D. Wakely

View of the Smithsonian Building from the southwest taken after the fire of 1865 during reconstruction. The main building is roofless and portions of the temporary roof inserted above the window ledges are visible protruding from the window openings. The octagonal tower is windowless, as are the two north towers, the south tower, and the connecting section between the south tower and the main building. The upper third of the south tower is missing (it was pulled down immediately after the fire) and is covered by a temporary wooden roof. A pile of bricks and a temporary work shed are seen at the base of the south tower. Although the card bears an 1866 copyright date, the view was taken shortly after March 7, 1865 when the temporary roof was constructed over the south tower.


Introduction

The stereoviews of the Smithsonian Institution Building in the Castle Collection cover a range of dates from 1858 to about 1890. These photographs provide rare glimpses of the exterior of the building as well as some of its interior spaces now long gone or significantly altered.

A Brief History of the Stereoview

As early as 1838, before the invention of photography, Charles Wheatstone developed a device which he called a stereoscope for viewing drawings in three dimensions. Photographs later replaced the drawings, first with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes and then with images printed on albumen paper mounted on cardboard. These photographs were called albumen prints because the process used paper that was coated with a solution containing egg whites. The process, invented in 1850 by Frenchman Louis D. Blanquart-Evrand, remained the standard for stereoviews until the introduction of gelatin-bromide paper in 1873.

By 1859, stereoviews were extremely popular in the United States with major publishers as well as local photographers producing images for the new phenomenon. For the first decade after their introduction, however, stereoviews and the stereoscopes used to view them were relatively expensive. Prices began to fall and production increased as the process became easier to use. More aggressive marketing also helped to lower prices so that by the 1880's viewing stereo cards became a common pastime in middle and upper class parlors.



Stereoscope

ca.1875
Wood, metal, fabric, and glass
H.4" x W.7.5" x D.12"
SI.1984.075

Unknown maker styled after the Holmes-Bates model.

This hand-held stereoscope featured a folding handle, wire and wood card holder (adjustable to facilitate focusing), and a velour edged metal hood. This type of viewer was the co-invention of noted physician, essayist, and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes and Boston photographer Joseph Bates. Thousands of viewers like this were produced cheaply by several different companies propelling the novelty to the level of a national pastime.

How Does it Work?

In order to produce a stereoview, a special camera is used to take a pair of photographs of the subject simultaneously. Two lenses, mounted 2.5 inches apart, simulate the distance between human eyes. A print of the two images is then made from the negative. The images are cut apart, reversed to correct for the lateral inversion, then mounted side-by-side on cardboard. When viewed through the stereoscopic viewer, the two images overlap, merging in our minds to give the illusion of depth and three-dimensions.



"Downing Vase, Smithsonian Grounds"

ca. 1867 - 1883
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.75"
SI.2001.007

By William M. Chase

View of the Downing urn (erected on the Smithsonian grounds in 1856) from the north looking toward the Smithsonian Building in the background. The urn was commissioned by the American Pomological Society to commemorate the life of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852), who designed the Smithsonian grounds but died tragically in 1852 before the plan was completed. The urn is now located in the Enid A. Haupt Garden in the south yard of the Smithsonian Building.

The front of the card is labeled:

United States Views, W.M. Chase Metropolitan and Suburban Scenery, Washington, DC.

A list of fifty titles in the series is listed on the back (this card is #1052). The back of the card is further inscribed:

American Scenery, by W.M. Chase, NE Corner of Lexington and Eutaw Streets, Baltimore, Maryland, Metropolitan and Suburban Scenery, Washington, DC.



"Smithsonian Institute"

ca. 1872 - 1874
Albumen print on paper, the cardboard mount is yellow colored on front, greenish gray colored on the back
3.5" x 7"
SI.1992.003

By: William M. Chase

Stereo view of Smithsonian Building taken from the northwest with three horse drawn carriages at the Porte Cochere. Identified as #1045 Smithsonian Institute in a list printed on the back. The card is inscribed on the front:

American Views By W.M. Chase

Handwritten on the back of the card is the date Dec. 1874 along with the printed inscription:

Selected from Chase's Celebrated Collection of National Views. Remarkable for their brilliancy, great compass, and depth of perspective, rich tones, and superior finish. Metropolitan and Suburban Scenery of Washington, D.C. Publication Office, N.E. Cor. Eutaw and Lexington Sts Baltimore.



"Bird's Eye View, Agricultural, Smithsonian & Capitol."

ca 1868 - 1891
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2002.017

By: Unknown maker

View of the Department of Agriculture building in the foreground (designed by Adolph Cluss 1867-68, razed in 1930) and the Smithsonian Building in the background taken from the west looking east. Although the label on the back of the card includes the Capitol building, it is not visible. The title is a misnomer in that the view was taken at ground level. Dating of the image is based on the 1868 completion date of the roof on the center section of the Smithsonian Building after the fire of 1865 and before the installation of a skylight on the roof of the west wing of the Castle in 1891. It has no other inscriptions besides the title on a paper label affixed to the back.



"The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Interior"

ca. 1874 - 1882
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2003.004

By: Unknown maker

View of the Upper Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking toward the southeast corner. Taken during construction of the exhibit cases 1872-1873. Eventually over 300 cases would fill the cavernous hall. Several of the mounted specimens and skeletons are seen set up on low bases behind a wooden fence.



"Joseph Henry's Study in the Smithsonian Building"

1878
Albumen print on paper, pale green colored cardboard mount
4" x 7"
SI.1980.092 E

By: Thomas W. Smillie

View of the small study located between the two bedrooms of the Henry apartments in the east wing second floor of the Smithsonian Building . Simply furnished with a small desk, a wicker rocking chair, a Gothic side chair, and built-in bookcases, this room was Joseph Henry's private library and study. A handwritten inscription on the back reads:


Small Library at the Smithsonian.



"Gothic Hall, Smithsonian Institute, Washington"

ca. 1870 - 1874
Albumen print on paper, gray colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2001.008

By: Unknown maker

View of the west range exhibit hall looking east toward the museum hall. The cases in this hall held ethnological specimens from China and Japan as well as examples of North American Indian workmanship. Along the arcades, above the cases, hung portraits of American Indians who had visited Washington between 1858-1869. These were painted by Antonio Zeno Shindler, an artist employed by the National Museum. Above the entrance to the museum hall, hung a full length portrait depicting George Washington after the Battle of Trenton painted by Charles Wilson Peale. Below it, a panoramic view of Constantinople by an unknown artist. The card in stamped on the back:

J.B. Mitchell
(probably the cards owner)



"Smithsonian Institute"

ca. 1868 - 1887
Albumen print on paper, green colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2001.011

By: Thomas W. Smillie

View of the Smithsonian Institution Building, taken from the north. That this view excludes the east wing suggests that it was taken while the wing was undergoing a major renovation between the years 1883 and 1884. Thomas Smillie was chief photographer for the Smithsonian from 1870 until his death in 1917. The card is labeled on the front:

Washington City and Vicinity, T.W. Smillie, Photographer



"View of the Interior of the Smithsonian Institute"

ca. 1867 - 1875
Albumen print on paper, salmon colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.75"
SI.2005.001

By: Bell & Brother,
480 Pennsylvania Ave,
Washington, DC.

Close up view of a small vitrine with stuffed birds, rabbits, and a squirel inside. The location of the case is presumed to be in the Lower Main Hall of the Smithsonian Building although very little backround detail is visible. Inscribed on a paper label on the reverse side:

"Photographed and Published by Bell & Bro. 480 Penna. Ave, Washington, DC. Entered according to an Act of Congress, AD. 1867, by F.H. Bell, in the District Court of the District of Columbia."



Website written and designed by
Richard E. Stamm
Curator, Smithsonian Institution
Castle Collection

© Smithsonian Institution 2007


"Picture Gallery, Smithsonian Institute."

1858
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.75"
SI.2004.021

By: American Stereoscopic Co., Langenheim, Lloyd & Co.

View of the Picture Gallery in the Upper Main Hall, Smithsonian Building looking toward the portraits of American Indians by John Mix Stanley and Charles Bird King. All but five of the paintings of American Indians and the statue of the Dying Gaul were lost in a fire that partially destroyed the building January 24, 1865. These two stereoviews of the Picture Gallery are the only visual records of the King and Stanley paintings in existence. Title inscribed in the lower right corner. Paper label on back:


American Stereoscopic Co., Langenheim, Lloyd & Co. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1858.



"Museum, Smithsonian Institution."

ca. 1865 - 1867
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2003.002

By: James F. Jarvis

View of the Lower Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking east. In the foreground is a large stove matching one at the far end of the hall. Although undated, the image was taken no earlier than 1865 when the stoves were installed and before 1867 when the ceiling panels, plain in this view, were painted with decorative stenciling. Ironically, the fire that devastated the upper floor of the building on January 24, 1865, was caused by an improperly installed stove such as this in the Picture Gallery directly above this hall. The card is inscribed on the front:

Views of Washington and Vicinity, Photographed and Published by J. F. Jarvis, 479 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.



"The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC"

ca. 1873 - 1879
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.1998.004

By: Unknown maker

View of the Smithsonian Building from the southeast. Although the grounds to the north of the Smithsonian building were planted according to A.J. Downing's plan of 1851, the large plot of land south of the building appears barren and empty planted with only a few trees at the time of this view. The card is unsigned, but the back of the card is inscribed with a brief history of the Institution and a description of the exhibits inside the building stating:


The Museum is the most attractive feature of the institution. It occupies the lower story of the centre building, and contains the type [of] specimens brought by the exploring expeditions of the United States. It also illustrates the natural productions of this Continent.



"Smithsonian Institute, South Side"

ca. 1868 - 1874
Albumen print on paper, red colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2004.016

By: E. & H.T. Anthony & Co.

View of the Smithsonian Building from the southwest with three men sitting in the grass and a horse drawn cart at the door of the south tower. The small shed seen near the south tower was constructed in July, 1865 for stone masons working on the reconstruction of the building after it was badly damaged in a fire the previous January. We are able to date this image between 1868 and 1874 by the appearance of the roof on the main building which was reconstructed between 1867 and 1868 after its total destruction by fire in 1865 and for the fact that E. & H.T. Anthony & Co.'s views were sold un-labeled after 1874. A paper label on back states:


Views in Washington City, D.C., No.6536, Smithsonian Institute, South Side, Published by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. Emporium of American and Foreign Stereoscopic Views, Chromos and Albums, 591 Broadway, opposite Metropolitan Hotel, New York.



"The Corridor of the Smithsonian Institution."

ca 1865 - 1867
Albumen print on paper, salmon colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2004.018

By: Bell & Brother

View of the Lower Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building taken from the west balcony looking east. This view differs slightly from image SI.1992.006 and although both views were published in 1869, subtle differences indicate that this view was taken a bit earlier. The ceiling panels in this view are plain while those in the other view show the decorative stenciling that was added in 1867. The card is also inscribed on the back:


Photographed and Published by Bell & Bro., 319 Penna. Avenue, Washington, DC. Entered according to an Act of Congress, AD 1869 by F.H. Bell, in the District Court of the District of Columbia.



"Smithsonian Institute, Wash"

ca. 1872 - 1874
Albumen print on paper, pale yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2003.013

By: U.S. Stereoscopic View Advertising Company

View of the Upper Main Hall of the Smithsonian Building looking toward the northwest. In this view, the model of Megatherium has been joined by other specimens and many more newly constructed cases. Specimens visible are the Irish Elk (mounted and skeletal versions), installed May 19, 1872, and a large tortoise shell. In the background is a Teepee. The back of the card was printed with advertisements for two Albany, New York establishments: Theo. Mosher, a piano merchant, and Jerkowski the Clothier. The card is labeled with the maker's and the printer's names on the back:


U.S. Stereoscopic View Advertising Company, Edward Trust & Co., Gen. Managers, 1841 Camac Street, Philadelphia

Wilkinson, Steam Print, Albany



"Joseph Henry's Bedroom in the Smithsonian Building"

1878
Albumen print on paper, pale green colored cardboard mount
4" x 7"
SI.1980.092 D

By: Thomas W. Smillie

View of Joseph Henry's bedroom located in the southeast corner of the east wing second floor of the Smithsonian Building. This photograph was made by the Smithsonian's chief photographer, Thomas W. Smillie, shortly after Joseph Henry's death in the room on May 13, 1878. The Henry apartments were converted to office use later that year.



"Museum, Smithsonian Institution."

ca. 1874 - 1882
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2003.003

By: James F. Jarvis

View of the Lower Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking east. The Hadrosaurus skeleton, the large tortoise shell, and the Elk are visible in the foreground on top of the cases. The model of the Megatherium is visible in the back of the hall. The cases were specially constructed so as to serve as bases or platforms for the huge models and specimens in order to utilize the cavernous space. Joseph Henry described the visual effect of the large skeletons as "forming a very striking and imposing feature of the collections." The large skeletons and other specimens were moved from the Upper Main Hall into the Lower Main Hall in 1874. They were moved to the new National Museum Building (A&I) in 1882. The card is inscribed on the front:


J.F. Jarvis' Stereoscopic Views. 135 Pen. Ave. Wash'n, D.C.

Signed and dated on the back in pencil:

H H Conant, January 17th, 1882
(probably the cards owner)



"Museum Hall, Smithsonian. Washington, D.C."

ca. 1880 - 1885
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.5" x 7"
SI.2003.003

By: Unknown maker

View of the Upper Main Hall in the Smithsonian Building looking west. After the large animals, skeletons, and models of pre-historic mammals were moved to the Lower Main Hall, this cavernous hall was devoted to the ethnological specimens. A Tsimshian house front is visible suspended on the far wall, while spears were artfully arranged on the walls above the cases. The immense painted house front had been acquired from the Northwest Coastal Indians for display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 and had been subsequently turned over to the Smithsonian along with the other government collections at the close of the fair.



"The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, U.S."

1855-1864
Albumen print on paper, yellow colored cardboard mount
3.25" x 6.87"
SI.2005.007

By: The London Stereoscopic Company, 534 Broadway, New York.

Hand-colored stereograph of the South facade of the Smithsonian Building taken from the Southwest. Two figures, male and female, stand looking at the building in the foreground left of center. Although the image is not dated, it precedes the fire of 1865 and was taken at a time of the year when the trees were in full leaf. Inscribed in the lower right corner:


"N. 132. - The Smithsonian Institute."


The back has a description of the Institution and building printed inside a ribbon border and having the American eagle symbol above the title.