The London Stereoscopic Company

The “London Stereoscope Company” first appears on the pages of British newspapers around Christmas 1854. It was founded by George Swan Nottage and Howard John Kennard, his cousin, and had as its first address 313, Oxford street, on the corner of Hanover Square. The shop was originally called the Artistic Repository (or Repository of Art) and was intended to sell various iron and bronze goods. However trade in stereoscopes and stereoviews very soon took over. The company sold “a large collection” of stereoscopic slides, as well as stereoscopes. Already in 1854 the London Stereoscope Company published stereoviews of Thomas Richard Williams, a student of Antoine Claudet and an important figure in the 1850s stereoscopy. It was also distributing landscape views of Italy, possibly by Claude-Marie Ferrier. A newspaper wrote:

“We cannot recommend to our readers, who have not yet witnessed the effect produced by these instruments, a more elegant treat than to pay a visit to the Stereoscope Company, and judge for themselves. We know nothing so well adapted for a Christmas present - by its ever new and entertaining variety, and by its affording an intelligent amusement for social parties.”

In half a year, the company was advertising 1,000 views for purchase in its store. In another 3 months already 10,000 subjects were on sale at the LSC, including views of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the Paris exhibition of 1855, etc.

 

Sometime in 1855 the company changes its name to the London Stereoscopic Company. In the beginning of 1856 an additional location opens at 54, Cheapside. (There are some references also to an address 20, Moorgate street in the City of London in 1855.)

By the end of 1856 the company advertised 100 000 “amusing and instructive stereoscopic views and groups”. And in December, 1859 it announced a Christmas sale of its stock of 1 million stereoviews (presumably not all of different subjects).

 

In 1860 the company hires a “very eminent Foreign Operator” and starts producing portraits in the Carte-de-Visite (CDV) format. At the end of 1860, probably to reflect this change in business focus, the company starts calling itself the London Stereoscopic Company and Photographic Institution. Presumably in 1862 the official name becomes the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company. In order to handle the demand for the new format the company even establishes a separate printing site in Surrey to which a private line of telegraph was laid.

 

The firm continues to produce stereoscopic views as well. Thus in November and December of 1861 it publishes a series of 24 instantaneous stereoviews of Paris taken by William England. And in 1862 the London Stereoscopic Company produces official photos of the International Exhibition in its home city (including many stereoscopic views of the interiors). The Paris stereographs earned it a medal at the Exhibition.

 

In order to expand its business the LSC signed up agents around the UK, but also abroad. Thus in 1861 Charles Gaudin, one of the preeminent Parisian dealer of stereoviews, became the sole agent of London Stereoscopic in France.

Their first agent in the US was likely William Hall & Son, a music store on Broadway which started advertising “that exquisite novelty in the way of parlor entertainment” in the spring of 1857. By the end of 1858 it was Wiley & Halsted, the well known publisher, that became an agent for the US. Next summer the London Stereoscopic Company decided to establish its own depot in New York, which was located at 534, Broadway. It moved to the Irving building at 594, Broadway in the spring of 1860. That year Paul & Curtis became the agent and published a catalogue. From March 1st 1861 the agency for London Stereoscopic was transferred from Paul & Curtis to James L. Warner who initially traded at 531, Broadway and then moved to No. 579 on the same street. Warner closed the shop at the end of July, 1869.

Throughout its years of operation the London Stereoscopic employed numerous photographers, most of whom remain unknown, but some, like William England and Thomas Richard Williams were big names in the world of 19th century photography.

 

In 1881 the company built a manufacturing facility at Southgate near London.

 

On July 1st 1885, soon after the death of George Swan Nottage, the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company became public. In its prospectus it mentioned that over the previous 23 years its annual profits amounted to more than 6 thousand pounds. It promised a dividend of 7 percent to stockholders. Howard John Kennard and Charles George Nottage, the son of the founder, became members of the Board with the former being the Board Chairman and the latter the Managing Director.

 

The company existed until 1922 and went into voluntary liquidation on the 2nd of October of that year. The last Chairman of the Board of the company was the son of one of the founders, Robert William Kennard.

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