Back to all articles

The History of the View-Master

The View-Master got its start when Harold Graves, the president of Sawyer’s Photographic Services, met fellow camera buff William Gruber at the Oregon Caves National Monument in 1938. Gruber was using two cameras strapped together and explained that his plan was to update the stereoscopes that had been common in 19th-century drawing rooms by producing 3D color slides and a new hand-held viewer. Following their conversation, the two men made a deal to produce the View-Master. The first View-Master was introduced the following year, at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The two men then began selling their product through specialty photography stores; the earliest reels showed views of scenic attractions around the country. In 1951, View-Master acquired its main competitor, Tru-Vue, and gained the rights to all Disney characters along with it. They soon began offering 3D views of the brand-new Disneyland amusement park along with stills from Disney movies and TV shows. Sales exploded and View-Master began to offer slide reels of nearly every major kids’ show and movie. Multiple manufacturers have produced the View-Master, including Tyco Toys and Fisher-Price. Today, View-Masters can be hard to find, but they were staple toys for children in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘00s.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.