‘See the World! Thru TRU-VUE, positively life-like...
Third Dimension Pictures * Still Movies with Depth’
Just last month I was helping to clean out a house we are selling for the owner who had already moved to Texas. I came across this interesting box with what I remember as a child as a ‘View-Master’, only these looked a little different. I didn’t find any of the circle reels that we used to put in top of the view finders we had as kids. Instead, I found several tiny boxes filled with what looks like old camera film all neatly packed together in their original boxes and 2 small viewers.
I phoned the owner of the home to ask him about them and had he forgotten they had been packed away in his attic. He said he had long forgotten about them and told me that he and his sister Rita (now both in their 80’s) got them when they were in grade school and enjoyed them at that time and he’d like her to have it. He didn’t have a lot of memories about the Tru-Vue, but his sister did. When I phoned Rita to tell her of the find she was thrilled and shared ~ ‘I have never forgotten that Tru-Vue but I just thought it had been thrown out many many decades ago. Oh, my goodness, I would love to have it! It just gives me goosebumps hearing about it! I can still remember the color of the small boxes the film came in; it was maroon and silver. I remember there was one of the three little pigs and Yellowstone Park. I was probably five or six years old when I looked at those. At ten or eleven years old I can remember using it in the house we lived in until I was twelve and that’s how we entertained ourselves back then. It’s how I learned about Yellowstone National Park and some of the other places on the films. Yes, that educated me! That’s just marvelous!’
According to Wikipedia, ‘TRU-VUE was a manufacturer of stereoscopic filmstrips and stereoscope viewers. They were based in Rock Island, Illinois, from 1932–1951 and in Beaverton, Oregon, from 1951 until the late 1960s. The film strips, or film cards, were fed through a slide viewer similar to a View-Master. The viewers looked art deco or streamlined in style and were made of Bakelite and available in multiple colors. When held up to light the images appeared in 3D. The company had a directory of films available by category that you could check off and mail in with your payment at .35 cents each and if you didn’t have the viewer that cost an additional $1.00. Some of the categories included: National Parks, Worlds Fairs, Animal, Bird and Marine Life, Historical, Children, Foreign and much more.’
Inside one of the viewer boxes was an original receipt from September 29, 1939 for 3 films at .35 cents each totaling $1.05 The film order was for Jack and The Beanstalk, and The Round-Up volume 1 and 2. Also in the box was the original promotional brochure - ‘A New Sensation Awaits You! It’s fascinating and educational … you insert a roll of film... trip the lever... a picture appears before your eyes... trip the lever again and you have another... repeat and you have another and another. The world passes before you in pictures... and such pictures... they startle you with their brilliance... they amaze you with their three-dimensional qualities... because the people in them almost come to life... and you declare you could reach out and touch them. Tru-Vue is no larger than an ordinary pair of opera glasses and it is much lighter. It is molded in beautifully finished Bakelite. Has scientific lenses of the finest quality. Each roll of film contains fifteen pictures. Rolls can be easily changed in an instant.’
In 1951, the TRU-VUE company was purchased by Sawyer’s, manufacturers of View-Master, eliminating a rival and gaining access to Tru-Vue’s licensing rights to make children’s filmstrips using Disney characters. Tru-Vue moved at that time from Rock Island, Illinois, to Beaverton, Oregon, near where Sawyer’s had built a new plant, and for a few years was a subsidiary company of Sawyer’s. Eventually, both View-Master and Tru-Vue products were manufactured by Sawyer’s into the 1960s. The films were based on attractive scenery, children’s stories, travel, night life, and current events. The company was purchased in 1951 by Sawyer’s—the manufacturer of the View-Master—because Tru-Vue had an exclusive contract to make children filmstrips based on Disney characters.
Various companies have purchased View-Master through the years, and with starts and stops were produced through 2019. In researching this I learned that there’s even a TRU-VUE collectors association. You can find original TRU-VUE Stereoscope and filmstrips for sale on eBay starting at around $15.00 and going up as high $50.00 depending on condition and number of films included. Or maybe, just look in the attic of an old house?
Ruth Blais Thompson is a lifelong resident of the Monadnock Region and is a Realtor for Blais & Assoc. Realtor’s in Keene. Her pastimes are writing short stories and playing and writing music. She lives in Dublin with her husband and 2 cats.