So this is a bit of an odd one.
Back in 2015 I wrote about finding my kids one morning at the breakfast table fighting over a View-Master.
You heard that right.
A bright red, completely retro, View-Master.
It had arrived in our house the year before (I even referenced that wondrous event here) when my Aunt June arrived on a visit and gifted two of these (plus a number of reels) to my kids, along with a selection of other previously loved toys and clothes.
I suspect they belonged first to my cousins – and then maybe one of their kids. In any event some of the reels had a 1958 copyright (like Heidi), then there were a bunch from the 1970s-80s, followed by some later Disney additions including 1989’s The Little Mermaid.
The View-Masters were pretty much ignored until one was pulled out of the toy box that morning in 2015.
I quickly located the other View-Master.
And they were both mesmerized.
For about a week.
My eldest then lost interest.
But my youngest has been pretty faithful to her love of this toy and still spends quite a bit of time happily playing with one and expressing joy and seemingly endless surprise at what she discovers when she looks through the View-Finder at a “new” reel.
It reminded me of one of the things I love about parenting: re-discovering the toys I loved as a kid as my kids discover them.
Like they say:
Can we give Kristyn from Barbie in the Pink Shoes (2013) a hand? She is one of my eldest’s past favourite Barbies from the Dolly Entourage. She has long since disappeared into the toy box, so I thought it would be kind to dust her off for this post.
Getting back to today’s post, Kristyn is proud to bring you this brief history of the View-Master (as previously featured on the blog):
So in case the copywrite on the reels I have here wasn’t indication enough, the Internet quickly informed me that the View-Master had a long history before I ever discovered it as a child in the early 1980s.
Created in 1939, four years after Kodachrome colour film made the use of small high-quality photographic color images practical, it wasn’t even originally targeted at kids. Instead, tourist attraction and travel views predominated early reels.
Now let me introduce Edwin Eugene Mayer, who, after serving in World War I, worked as a pharmacist in Portland, Oregon, where he built up a photography finishing business.
In 1919, he bought into Sawyer’s Photo Finishing Service with his family, and incorporated the business in about 1926.
Sawyer’s was the USA’s largest producer of scenic postcards in the 1920s, also producing albums and greeting cards.
As for the View-Master, it came into being after Mayer and business partner Harold Graves met with William Gruber, an organ maker and an avid photographer, in 1938. Mayer and Gruber had both developed devices for viewing stereo images, but Gruber had the idea of updating the device by using the new Kodachrome 16-mm color film.
The View-Master was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard.
In 1951, Sawyer’s purchased Tru-Vue, the main competitor of View-Master, which gave them licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios, and thus started to produce numerous reels featuring Disney characters. In 1966, Sawyer’s was acquired by the General Aniline & Film (GAF). Under GAF’s ownership, television series were also featured, such as Doctor Who, Star Trek and the Beverly Hillbillies.
The View-Master is made today by Mattel’s Fisher-Price division. Throughout the years, there have been some 25 different viewer models, thousands of titles, and 1.5 billion copies of reels.
That certain gives me a lot more reels to track down if my 4-year-old doesn’t lose interest.
What about you? Are there toys from your childhood that you enjoy watching your kids play with?
PS: If you want more fun retro View-Master pictures, might I suggest a surf on Pinterest?