Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Charming "Peep" into the Past: The Victorian Stanhope

I always get rather giddy when I buy an antique. Not to sound corny, but there is just something about owning a piece of history that gives me chills [the good kind]. You never need an antique, you just want it. It is often instinctual and irresistible -- the siren call of the past? For me, it feels less like owning something and more like taking care of something that needs love.



This past weekend, after browsing lustfully through the beautiful antique jewelry in Wicked Darling's shop, I was overcome with curiosity and an unexplainable desire to own this bizarre, but lovely trinket pictured above. It is called a Stanhope [dating from around 1900], and it is a miniature photographic lens inside of a pendant...



I had never even heard of Stanhopes before this discovery, so I was surprised to learn that they were popular trinkets in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Each one contains several tiny photographs, and in order to view them, you hold the Stanhope up to a light and peep through the tiny hold in the end [they were also referred to as "peeps"]. The Victorians were quite enamored by photography, so it makes sense that these fairly inexpensive novelty items would have been popular with travelers and tourists. The one I purchased from Wicked Darling has 4 photos of Niagara Falls inside [probably purchased by a couple on their honeymoon!?].



This image of a Ferris Wheel is an enlargement of a microphotograph used inside of a Stanhope.



In 1862, a man named Rene Dagron established a factory in France to produce Stanhopes, which were then sold all over Europe and and the U.S. Stanhopes could be found inside a wide variety of objects, including: crosses, writing equipment, jewelry, smoking paraphernalia, perfume bottles, and more. To learn more about Stanhopes, check out this website on their history and manufacturing.

These are a few lovely Stanhopes for sale on ebay right now:






Examples of other "peeps" from the Stanhopes website and Camera Oddities:





This is an enlarged image of the the lens of a Stanhope that Wicked Darling was gracious enough to send me. It is truly such an amazing invention!


I cannot wait to receive my own little "peep" into the past...I will definitely take photos when it arrives!

8 comments:

Poke Salad Annie said...

How incredibly magical!! I had never heard of such things before. Thanks so much for posting this! If it's alright with you, Id like to link to this post from my blog...?

Mary-Laure said...

What amazing treasures. I want one too - I adore photography. I had never heard of Stanhopes...

I'm smitten with your blog and am adding it to my blogroll, BTW.

Paul Pincus said...

i'm blown away by this post.

amazing.

and, yes, magical too!

thank you, tara!

AlicePleasance said...

Little fake cameras containing souvenir photos were really popular in the early 80s too, mostly as toys for kids. I remember I have a couple, but they probably went missing during the years and the movies. These (more) vintage ones are really gorgeous though :-)

[Tara] said...

annie -- thanks again for re-posting this!

mary-laure -- Thank you so much; I am glad you enjoyed it!

paul -- You are always so flattering ;) Thanks!!!

alice -- I would love to hunt down one of the 80's ones as well!

LaBellina said...

I am very intrigued by your posting on Stanhopes...I have never seen or heard of these charming little trinkets. I am also very into vintage things...Nice post. I will now start looking for these also... This is the second post of yours that I have read and I have decided to become a follow...Thanks for your insight.

[Tara] said...

La Bellina -- sorry it took me so long to respond! Thank you for your kind words -- I'm glad you enjoyed my post! Let's chat again soon...

~M~ said...

Had never heard of Stanhopes before, how amazing! I want one too. You are so good at finding rare, wonderful treasures.