Mascher daguerreotype viewing case

A viewing case with a black and white stereo daguerreotype of a man and a woman. The viewing case dates from the 1850s and is made by Mascher from Philadelphia.

John Frederick Mascher was a German born clock and watchmaker in Philadelphia. He patented his stereoscopic viewing case on 8 March 1853 and it was the first American patent for a stereoscope[1-p.80]. Stereo images became popular from 1851, but viewing a stereo daguerreotype was challenging because of reflections of the silver plate. Special viewing cases were introduced in Europe and the United States to improve the viewing experience.

Mascher daguerreotype viewing case

Mascher aimed with his viewing case at the mass market and it was available in a variety of sizes and styles. He held a near-monopoly on the manufacturing of the cases and sold tens of thousands in a brief period, as daguerreotypes disappeared in the early 1860s with the introduction of the wet collodion process. From that moment, the cases were made suitable for ambrotypes and tintypes, which were based on the collodion process[1-p.82].

Mascher’s viewing case is a foldable viewer made of wood and covered by leather. The viewer consists of a plate on which the lens panel and the holder with the daguerreotype are placed. Both can’t be locked, so viewing the image is a bit cumbersome. It’s best to place the daguerreotype in your palm and hold the lens panel between your thumb and forefinger.

Mascher daguerreotype viewing case

The daguerreotype is covered by a copper passepartout and a glass plate protects the passepartout and the image. The image is a quarter plate daguerreotype (8,1×10,8cm), made by an unknown photographer. The image is of good quality and offers an attractive stereo depth effect.


  1. Wing, Paul. Stereoscopes: the first one hundred years, 1996
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