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Thomas Houseworth and Co. stereograph collection

 Collection — Box: P011
Identifier: PC-RM-Houseworth
The collection contains 105 albumen stereographs printed between 1868-1869 depicting street scenes, buildings, and industry in San Francisco. There are numerous images of the redwoods of Calaveras County, Calif., and of Donner Lake. There are photographs of nature, including the Yosemite Valley, the geysers of Sonoma County and the lighthouses of Mendocino. The collection also includes photographs of Lake Tahoe and of mining towns in Nevada. There’s a series devoted to the Central Pacific Railroad and to the Western Pacific Railroad. There are also images of some of the indigenous people of California.


  • 1868-1869

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection are in the public domain in the United States. Permission to publish or reproduce is not required.


.5 box (1 photo box, half of which is Houseworth and Co., and half of which is Lawrence and Houseworth.)


Thomas Houseworth and Co. is the company continued by Thomas Houseworth after his partner George Lawrence retired in 1869. Houseworth was an optometrist and stereograph merchant located in San Francisco, Calif. The images in this collection contain reprints of Lawrence and Houseworth images, as well as newly created images. Houseworth was a major player in the stereograph market until the early 1870s, and he took numerous measures to make sure his work remained viable, including introducing new formats and competing with rival stereograph publishers.

Biographical / Historical

Lawrence retired from Lawrence and Houseworth between 1867 and 1868, and Houseworth took over the business, renaming it Thomas Houseworth and Co., while still also offering optometry services. He introduced many new categories of views at this time, and was still offering views once sold by Lawrence and Houseworth. New images were also produced, likely between 1868 and 1869, and Houseworth hired a number of new employees. The stereoscopic market was lucrative and quite competitive, and Houseworth wanted to maintain his dominance of the market. He even moved his business to a more tourist-friendly location, at No. 9 Montgomery Street, underneath the Lick House (a lavish hotel). However, business began to decline after losing a bid to competitor Bradley and Rulofson to publish Eadweard Muybridge’s new series of views. The stereoscopic market in general was also on the decline. In 1874, he moved his business again – opening a “photographic parlor” across the street from his old location. He offered a new series of nearly 3,000 cabinet cards, which he called “Houseworth’s Celebrities” and which depicted famous theater actors and actresses, as well as athletes and politicians, and which were quite popular. Houseworth continued working at this location until 1886, and retired from photography in 1894.


The collection comprises one series of stereographs arranged in numerical order using Houseworth’s original numbering system, as it appeared in his fifth edition catalogue in 1869. The numbers and titles are printed on the cards themselves, and were verified using Peter Palmquist’s Lawrence and Houseworth / Thomas Houseworth and Co.: A Unique View of the West 1860-1886 (National Stereoscopic Association, 1980).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection is comprised of multiple donations from various donors. Please see collection files for more information.
Finding aid to the Thomas Houseworth and Co. stereograph collection
The collection was processed by Erin Hurley in December 2018.
December 2018.
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the California Historical Society Repository

678 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94105