This is a late-1860s field camera made by John Stock in the
American Optical Company's factory.
It is an early robustly built American camera for stereo
image pairs using the wet collodion process. The plate
format is 5" x 8" in which two images would be exposed at
the same time. In many cases, the stereo septum can be
removed and a single lens used for a single picture on the
A matched pair of Benjamin French & Co. (Boston) rapid
rectilinear lenses are mounted.
American wet plate stereo field cameras are rare. By the
mid-1870s, these cameras were built lighter (less 'robust')
as the dry plate process became popular (no messy, toxic
chemistry to prepare in the field). As a result, stereo
photography became more accessible because the dry plate
process was simpler and less demanding.
By the turn of the century, roll film based stereo cameras
were becoming common and replacing dry plates.
Stereo Wetplate, late 1860s John Stock / American Optical Company. New York, NY.
Late-1860s John Stock stereo wetplate (with American Optical Company markings)
Build Lot No.96, Benjamin French & Co. Lens Pair