View-Master Toys are Going Virtual Reality

" The View-Master first appeared in 1939 at the New York Worlds Fair. My View-Master Model C, pictured here, was produced between 1946 and 1955. It was made from bakelite and was the first viewer to have a slot into which the reels were placed for viewing. Believe it or not, all reels made for any view master will work in any model from 1939 to present." Image by Jack Pearce, Flickr Creative Commons. Image used without changes; find it at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwpearce/10725366513/.

” The View-Master first appeared in 1939 at the New York Worlds Fair. My View-Master Model C, pictured here, was produced between 1946 and 1955. It was made from bakelite and was the first viewer to have a slot into which the reels were placed for viewing. Believe it or not, all reels made for any view master will work in any model from 1939 to present.” Image by Jack Pearce, Flickr Creative Commons. Image used without changes; find it at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwpearce/10725366513/.

Did you have a View-Master toy as a kid? Using these stereoscopic viewers (long before kids had cameras of their own), children could see pictures of any topic from Disney to dinosaurs to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. According to a collector, whose image is posted here, “all reels made for any View-Master will work in any model from 1939 to the present.”

Well, this decades-only technology is about to get boosted into the 21st century. According to this news report, “Mattel is teaming up with Google on an upcoming virtual reality-based View-Master that is infused with Google Cardboard VR technology.”

“The Cardboard-based View-Master…will share some design elements with vintage View-Masters, but instead of dropping in a reel, you slide an Android smartphone into the unit. View-Master will work with a custom Mattel app, as well as any Google Cardboard-compatible app, of which there are now about 200 in the Google Play Store.”

Want to learn more about these great vintage toys–or share one with the next generation? Click here to purchase a View-Master Viewer and Reels and click here to purchase Collectible View-Master: An Illustrated Reference and Value Guide. (Thank you! Purchasing from these links helps support the Genealogy Gems podcast and blog.)

Did you know that nostalgia buffs (and anyone else) can search Google Patents for fun objects like the View-Master? Click here to see the original patent application materials for the 1939 View-Master, including a design drawing of that first model. Here’s a tip: if your ancestor ever applied for a patent, search Google Patents for his or her name! Learn more about Google Patents–and other fabulous and FREE Google tools you can use for family history–in the new, fully-revised 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.

World War II Maps: A Revolution in Map-Making

Perspective MapsWorld War II started a revolution in map-making. It didn’t just change maps, but it also changed how the world looked at maps.

Maps suddenly became very interesting to everyone. Not just war strategists and troops but all those left behind on the home front. This interest was fueled even more by a revolution in how maps were made–a revolution that anticipated the information-sharing power of Google Earth.

“War has perennially driven interest in geography, but World War II was different,” reports this article in New Republic.  “The urgency of the war, coupled with the advent of aviation, fueled the demand not just for more but different maps, particularly ones that could explain why President Roosevelt was stationing troops in Iceland, or sending fleets to the Indian Ocean.”

The story focuses on artist Richard Edes Harrison, whose World War II maps portrayed theaters of war with vivid clarity. He used the artist’s tools of shading, color and perspective to create maps “that could be intuitively understood by readers of widely varied levels of literacy and sophistication.” His “colorful and sometimes disorienting pictures (not quite maps)…emphasized relationships between cities, nations, and continents at the heart of the war. These maps were published in Fortune, then issued in an atlas that became an instant bestseller in 1944.”

After reading the article I ran a quick check of Google Books, one of my favorite go-to genealogy resources online, on “Richard Edes Harrison:. Sure enough, Google Books has a fully digitized copy of Life magazine (Feb 28, 1944) which includes the article “Perspective Maps: Harrison Atlas Gives Fresh New Look to Old World.” It’s not only chock full of his color maps, but includes a detailed section on how he drew his maps. You can see it here

What really caught my attention was the article’s explanation of how these World War II maps anticipated the information-sharing power of Google Earth. Google Earth shows us the terrain as well as geographic boundaries. That helps us understand things like movements of troops–or movements of ancestors.

As genealogists, we can learn so much by studying maps–particularly the powerful ones on Google Earth. Genealogy Gems Premium Members have access to my series of videos on Geographic Genealogy, including:Historic_Maps_Video

  • Google Earth for Genealogy
  • Time Travel with Google Earth
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Research with Old Maps (brand new full hour class – retail value alone $39.95)

PGenealogy Gems Premium Membership and Podcastremium Membership is a bargain at only $29.95 for an entire Bonus EBookyear’s access, plus right now you get the free bonus ebook Lisa Louise Cooke’s 84 Best Tips, Tricks & Tools from Family Tree Magazine.

Click here to learn more about Premium Membership.

 

(Free Video Class) Google Earth Helps Genealogist Find Family Business

Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother.  She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863.  To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!

“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:

“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco.  I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)

“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham!  There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”Family business photo 2

Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch International, the two largest online providers of genealogy data,  just announced an agreement that’s expected to put a billion more historical records from around the world within reach online.

1 Billion Records FamilySearch and Ancestry

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

A billion is a LOT of records. If you wanted to count to a billion, it would take you 95 years.

According to an Ancestry.com press release, the organizations will partner “with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.”

“The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as Ancestry.com continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide,” continues the release. “Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.”

This kind of collaboration (rather than competition) between these two enormous organizations will likely mean fabulous fruits for the genealogist. I love that the emphasis is on worldwide records, too. Though people in certain international markets may be the ones using their records, the ancestors of those folks have come from all parts of the world. As always, stay tuned to Genealogy Gems to hear news like this and for updates as these records start becoming available.

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