In 1865 in the small northern New Hampshire town of Littleton, Edward and Benjamin West Kilburn founded the Kilburn Brothers Stereoscopic View Company. Stereoscopic photography is the process whereby mounted pairs of slightly different photographs give the illusion of three dimensionality when viewed through a stereoscope. Stereography had been introduced to America over ten years before the Kilburns began publishing views, but it became an especially popular form of parlor entertainment in the decade following the Civil War.
Particularly noted for their stereographs of the White Mountains, the Kilburn Company also published quantities of views of national and international subjects. While most pioneer stereograph publishers had withdrawn from the business by the 1880's, the Kilburn Company lasted until 1910. In its last decade of operation, the Kilburn firm expanded its catalogue to include over 17,000 different views, and reached its peak annual production of over five million stereographs.
Of the thousands of American stereograph publishers, it is the size, longevity, and outstanding quality of the Kilburn stereographs that make the Kilburn Brothers Stereoscopic View Company an important subject for study.
B.W. Kilburn has been credited by both his contemporaries and by historians with producing most of the photography for the first ten or fifteen years of the firm's existence. Special attention, therefore, has been given to establishing which of the Kilburn stereographs were really made by B.W. Kilburn, and in determining which views were purchased or pirated from other publishers. While identifying B.W. Kilburn's own work and artistic achievement is important, it is even more important to study the relationship between the personal style of individual photographers like B.W. Kilburn, and how their work was affected by commercial demands and visual models in other media.
The history of the first fifteen years of the Kilburn Company has been emphasized because it was during this time that the Kilburns developed their production system, achieved a national reputation, and pioneered as a leading company in the stereograph industry.
Level of Degree
UNM Department of Art and Art History
First Committee Member (Chair)
Van Deren Coke
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
stereography, New Hampshire companies
Southall, Thomas W.. "The Kilburn Brothers Stereoscopic View Company." (1977). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/arth_etds/40