Many photographers took special "stereo views" that made their photos look three-dimensional. First they took the pictures with a camera that had two lenses (like binoculars). The pictures were printed side-by-side. People used a viewer called a "stereopticon" to blend the two pictures into one three-dimensional image. The "Viewmaster" and 3-D books and movies of today work in a similar way. See a stereo card and stereopticon on this page.
Stereo views were a new fad in 1889. Photographers liked being able to sell their pictures this way, since printing photos in newspapers, magazines, or books was still difficult and expensive. People bought thousands of stereo cards of the Johnstown Flood. Three-dimensional pictures really helped people understand how bad the flood damage was.
If you have 3-D glasses, you can see the same stereo views people saw with their stereopticons! Put your glasses on with the red lens over your left eye and the blue lens over your right eye. Click on the images below to view a larger image. To help you see as much as possible from these photographs, use the tool "Reading a Photograph." If you don't have 3-D glasses, you can view the same photographs here.