Originally Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2012, 10:56 pm
Last Updated: Nov. 29, 2012, 11:11 pm

Stereoptic collection offers in-depth look at the past

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By Dawn Neuses dneuses@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Bobbi Jackson, Archivist and Executive Director at the Rock Island County Historical Society, looks through a stereo viewer at one of the many stereo cards on display at the Rock Island County Historical Society in Moline.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
The stereo viewer with a photograph of the Harper House that was located at 2nd Avenue and 19th street in downtown Rock Island is on display at the Rock Island County Historical Society museum in Moline.

MOLINE — A rare display of stereoscopic cards ofRock Island County and the French series Les Diableries will go on display Sunday at the Rock Island County Historical Society museum.

A Christmas open house will be from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the museum, 822 11th Ave., Moline. The stereoscopic cards, which will remain on display through May, will be one of several displays featured during the Sunday event.

Stereoscopic cards are from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Two identical photographs were mounted side-by-side on a card, then viewed through a stereoscope. The result was a three-dimensional image.

"Stereoviews were the View Masters of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and both children and adults used them to pass the time and to self-educate themselves at night and during the winter," said Bobbi Jackson, RICHS archivist and executive director.

Because of their age and rarity, the cards will be on in a case, but are large enough to see the image and detail through the glass.

The stereoscopic cards of Rock Island County show various homes, business and landmarks, including an ice-filled overflowing Rock River, construction on the Rock Island Arsenal, and a long, hilly dirt road in Coal Valley.

RICHS volunteer Nancy Huse said some of the stereoscopic cards of Rock Island County are rare and valuable because of the artist — Ben Wittick — who captured the images. Mr. Wittick eventually moved west and became a very respected artist, she said.

Les Diableries is a set of French stereoscopic cards produced in the late 1860s. Ms. Jackson said they were designed to be satirical and mirror the corruption and excess of Paris during the rule of Napoleon III during the Second Empire.

The cards show detailed sculpted clay figures of skeletons and demons in the devil's kingdom having extravagant dinners, gambling and engaging in general depravity.

Ms. Jackson said the French stereoscopic cards were created to be comical and for adults.

Ms. Huse said stereoscopic cards are a good way to see what people did for amusement before television and radio. "They have a historical value, too, especially looking at the collection of French cards. You can see how they used popular culture to get a message across," she said.

RICHS has about 2,000 stereoscopic cards. Some of the collection was donated by the Moline Public Library. Most of them were used in schools through the 1930s to educate students about things such as geography and cultures, Ms. Huse said.

She believes the cards still have educational value."I think teachers could use the large collection we have. They show how cultures were presented to children in the past and there is a comparison and contrast one could make. You can see differences from how we approach cultures today," she said.

Ms. Jackson said "We hope when we show people things like this they will become interested and come back to see the many others things we have to offer."

The Rock Island County Historical Society will host “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” a Christmas open house from noon to 5 p.m  Sunday.

It includes historical quilt exhibits in the museum and adjoining Atkinson-Peek House, 822 11th Ave., Moline. On display will be one of the society's most prized quilts, "Vases of Flowers" circa 1870. The design features vases, leaves, stems, and berries with single-thread buttonhole stitches embroidered around every piece.

There will be free tours of the Atkinson-Peek House museum, which is decorated for Christmas. Nancy Varner, of Blue Grass, will play the organ throughout the day.

Winter clothing and historical artifacts depicting late 19th century and the early 20th century pastimes and kitchen tools will be on display, along with stereoscopic cards of Rock Island County and the French series Les Diableries.

The Rock Island High School Symphonic Choir will perform at 3 p.m. in the RICHS library. There will be free cookie decorating for kids and free coffee, cider and cookies for all visitors. 

For more information, call (309) 764-8590.