This past weekend I had the opportunity to present my first person portrayal of Frontier Dakota Photographer Stanley J. Morrow to 5th thru 8th grade students from the Yankton and Vermillion, SD schools as a part of  NPS Missouri Natl. Recreational River's (MNRR) "Clean Up Weekend" event.   My talk was "autobiographical" in nature, and centered on Morrow's interaction and reminiscences of the "Big Muddy" in his travels and photographic ventures along the Missouri River between 1868 - 1882.  I Brought my Circa 1880 "New Model" Rochester Optical view camera, an original stereoscope viewer, and a small sampling of my S.J. Morrow stereoview card collection to show the audience. The 3-D illusion looking at mounted twin photos through the viewer was a hit with many of the kids, who had never dreamed there was such a marvelous thing at such an early date.

Stanley J. Morrow was born in Richland County, Ohio, on May 3, 1843, and moved to Wisconsin early in his childhood. In 1861, he joined the 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry as a drummer. Morrow was then transferred into the Veteran Reserve and was stationed at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland as an assistant to renowned Civil War photographer Matthew B. Brady. Brady instructed Morrow in photography and the wet plate process, which Morrow used throughout his career.

Upon exiting the war, Morrow married Isa Ketchum, and the couple moved to Yankton, Dakota, around 1868. Morrow established a photography gallery there and taught Isa the photographic process. When Morrow was away, Isa ran the gallery to fund his photographic expeditions. As many photographers of his day, portrait photography done in the interior studio, was the "bread-and-butter" activity for the business. Morrow augmented his income by photographing and publishing and selling his scenic and documentary photographs in stereograph card form. (More about this technology later)

In 1876, Stanley Morrow met soldiers returning from General George A. Crook’s expedition in pursuit of the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne. Morrow photographed soldiers reenacting scenes from the starvation march back to the Black Hills and from the Battle of Slim Buttes, and photographed Sioux warriors captured in battle.

Morrow became post photographer at Fort Keogh in 1878 and later that year opened a gallery at Fort Custer. In April 1879, while working as photographer at Fort Custer, he accompanied Captain George K. Sanderson and a company of the 11th Infantry on an expedition to Little Bighorn Battlefield to clear the field of animal bones and remark the graves of fallen soldiers.

Stanley Morrow returned to Yankton in 1880, photographing local events including the Great Flood of 1881.

When Isa fell ill in 1882, the couple moved to Florida. Stanley J. Morrow died in Dallas, Texas, on December 10, 1921.

The 19th Century stereograph phenomenon

(Stereoscope and viewing card)

Dating back to 1519, when Leonardo De Vinci discovered that binocular vision adds a quality of depth or relief to the perception of objects, there have been many advancements made in the science of binocular vision. The British inventor Charles Wheatstone finally discovered in 1841 that binocular images could be made photographically. This discovery led to the invention of the stereograph.By the time Samuel Morrow came on the scene, most middle class families in the USA had a stereoscope and volumes of cards to impress friends visiting the middle-class Victorian Era home and parlor, as well as found in school classrooms to help teach children about the world. 

Stereographic photography involves a stereoscope and stereographic cards. Stereographic cards are cards that contain two separate images that are printed side-by-side to create the illusion of a three-dimensional image. The stereoscope is the device used for viewing the cards. Stereographic cards have a pair of photographs taken with a special camera that records a pair of images from slightly separated views simultaneously. Cards were printed with these views and when viewed through the stereoscope, a three-dimensional image could be seen.

In addition to simulating a three-dimensional image, viewing a stereograph has other advantages as well. While viewing the image it is magnified, offering a wider field of view and the ability to see the detail of the photograph in higher clarity. In addition, the stereoscope provides a partition between the images, avoiding a potential distraction to the user. Another advantage of the stereograph is that because it uses magnifying lenses, the focal point of the image is changed from a short distance to a distance of infinity. This allows the focus of the eyes to be consistent with the parallel lines of sight, greatly reducing eye strain.