Bee Farms for the Stereopticon: Vintage Beekeeping Photographs

A bee farm in California, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. No date or more specific location is known. The hive stands are interesting feature of this old photograph.

More stereoscopic images of old-time beekeeping:

When I first saw these photos, I wondered why Carleton Watkins would go to all the trouble to take these pictures. Photography back in the 1880’s was not exactly a casual “point and shoot” thing — there were heavy plates and equipment to lug around. There must have been something about the apiary or the whole idea of keeping honey bees that grabbed his attention. Might be that beekeeping was kind of novel — honey bees were relatively new to California — introduced in 1857. Or maybe he sampled some of the Villa’s honey and was taken by the little insects that produced it.

You may remember seeing a stereoscope tucked away in a cupboard at your grandparents’ house, as we do. It made a quiet entertainment for children on a rainy day, together with a dusty box of the two-pictured cards from a by-gone era.

The Stereoscope

Stereoscopes, also known as stereopticons or stereo viewers, were one of America’s most popular forms of entertainment in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first patented stereoscope was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. … However, Wheatstone’s stereoscope was not as popular as a later version, made by Oliver Wendell Holmes. … Stereoscopes continued to be widespread in America until the 1930s. Then stereoscope production declined, likely due to the new interest in motion pictures. However, the stereoscope continues to offer viewers something that no ordinary photograph or movie can offer, namely a sense of depth and image realism.

Hand held stereoscope