Keystone View Photographs

Once Upon A Time – How The World  Looked, Lived, and Vanished

Rare Photographs & Text By The Keystone View Company

Keystone Glass Slide #P130 “Peasants Crushing Grain by Hand, Russia”

I’ve always been fascinated by pictures and photographs of people and places of long ago. Many years ago I came across a set of old glass lantern slide photographs, in a box, being thrown out by a local school district .

Being the curious type, I retrieved them and to my surprise was awarded with views of a world long gone. Although many of the slides were cracked and broken, they still provided images of worlds now considered ancient. All of these slides had the name Keystone View Company, and most of the slides had a text card describing the image. So, my quest began to learn more about the company and the photographs taken by its members.

A Little Bit of History

Before I get into the company, let’s first discuss the history, very briefly, of the lantern slide.Transparent magic lantern slides were very popular forms of entertainment prior to the

Keystone Glass Slide #P163 “Inside A Grocery Store”

development of photographs. Made of glass, they were used to project drawings. The first recorded use of an image projection system was the Sturm Lantern in 1676. It was capable of “…producing small, dimly lit images” (, George Aukland, 2001).

The first photograph was developed in 1839 by Louis Jacques Mande’ Daguerre, a French painter (Jensen, Kerr, & Belsky, 1970). Now you know from where the term ‘Daguerreotype’ photograph comes.

It was Daguerre who coated a copper sheet with a thin coating of silver. Polishing this sheet to a high luster, it was then placed in a closed box and activated with iodine fumes, allowing the silver to be sensitive to light. In darkness he placed this activated “film” in a plate holder and

Keystone Glass #P252
“Indian Village on a government reservation, Glacier National Park, Montana”

then into a “camera.” Exposing this plate for 15-30 minutes, produced an image. However the image was not made visible until it was “developed” over mercury fumes (today we know how poisonous mercury can be).  Once the plate was developed, it was “fixed” in a solution of sodium hyposulphite, discovered by Herschel. After washing, the “photograph” was placed under glass, preventing damage which could occur with a touch of the hand.  It took another ten years of photographic development before the technology was available to produce the first lantern slides. The development of the lantern slide (made of glass) allowed the photograph to be seen by many people when projected. This new medium opened the door for countless entertainment and educational possibilities.

For further information:

As the title states, the images I have posted, were, for the most part, the brainchild of B.L.

Singley of Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1892. Singley was an amateur photographer who saw a market and heavily capitalized upon it. You might say he was the original Barnum and Bailey of the photographic world. He used the public’s fascination of disastrous events to bring the images to them. These images were produced on a stereoview card

There were 300 of the “P” Series lantern slides produced by the Keystone View Company. These “P” or Primary slides, were used as educational tools, in schools, museums, libraries, and Sunday schools. Each image I will post will be accompanied by the text provided by the company, of which I have 291 of the 300 original text cards that accompany each photograph. 

Keystone Glass Slide #P28 “The Matterhorn, Switzerland, Glimpses of Swiss Life in the Valleys”

In my quest to garner the complete collection of P Series slides I have made some interesting observations:

1. There are color and black & white images (both of with the same view) with the identical P numbers and secondary numbers ( see image P4).
2. The P number on the slide may be the same on two different views, but one image is in color and the other in black & white ( see image
3. There are some situations in which the P number is identical on both color and black & white images. However the secondary numbers are different ( see image
4. There are some photos with different P numbers but the image is the same for each P number. An example is P66 and P77 (this image is all but destroyed). Both of these images show the exact same lion pride.

5. The text card has both the P number and the second number printed on it. Text card numbers and photo numbers match each other. If the two items don’t match, then one of two situations have occurred:

There is a different text card for the photo I have, or There is a different photo to match

Keystone Glass Slide #P26 “Bar Harbor from Scott’s Hill, Mount Desert, ME” (If you look closely you can see the sailing ships in the harbor.)

the card I possess.

6. There are different views of the same subject. These different views have the same P number and secondary number, therefore the images match the card number and the description on the card (P1).

Since the Keystone View Company has disappeared, I am unaware of any continuing copyrights

which may be associated with this collection. Because these images are of a historical nature it may be impossible to determine ownership. I encourage their use, especially for educational and scholarly works. If used, I would appreciate a credit line to be included with each image.  All images have a resolution of 72 dpi.

I will add a representative type of slides on this site.