The stereoscope, a way of viewing 3-D images, wasn’t a new thing when View-Master began producing its first viewers and disks. So when it was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, its purpose was to replace the traditional postcard with travel images. Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon (Great American Things, August 4, 2009) were the destinations featured on the earliest disks.
Although the manufacturers featured some lighthearted subjects along the way, it wasn’t until the early 1950s — and the use of Disney characters and the newly opened Disneyland — that View-Master came into its own as a toy.
The company changed hands many times over the years. Its owners have included GAF, Ekco Housewares, Ideal Toy, Tyco Toys, Mattel, and Mattel’s Fisher Price division. Scenics are still produced, but animated characters is still where the real View-Master money is.
Though the exterior materials have changed, the actual viewing device isn’t all that different from the first model made back in 1939. When you’ve produced more than 25 models of the viewer and 1.5 billion disks, people take notice. View-Master was among the original inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame back in November, 1999…