Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Sawyers (Viewmaster)

Viewmaster was founded by William Gruber who designed a process to shoot stereo images on the newly released Kodachrome slide film as an alternative to the stereo card viewers popular at the time. Grubber met Harry Graves, who happened to be the president of Sawyers, a company that sold postcards. They teamed up to market images that were the subjects of pre-packaged stereo cards. This included scenic attractions, events such as a World's Fair, cartoons, and eventually stills from different TV shows. The images were mounted on reels, which insert into inexpensive viewers, which they also sold, bringing color 3D images to the masses inexpensively.

They were first introduced at the 1939 World's Fair in New York as a souvenir, but soon they were everywhere. There is a large group of collectors of the reels and viewers alone.

In 1945 Gordon Smith and Karl Kurtz founded Stereocraft to design and build a stereo camera which would produce images to mount in Viewmaster reels. The idea was to allow customers to create their own personal Viewmaster reels. And so the camera was named the Viewmaster Personal. It was marketed by Sawyers Viewmaster.

Sawyers also marketed other  cameras, including a 4x4 cm TLR, the Sawyers Mark IV, which was made by Tokyo Kogaku (which also made the Topcon line) and some inexpensive plastic cameras.

Sawyers Viewmaster was founded in Portland, OR, and I was privileged to be given a tour of their plant. They are currently part of Tyco Toys, and are still marketing Viewmaster reels. 

Viewmaster Cameras