Sawyers was founded in 1914 by Carleton Sawyer and some friends. Originally created as a photo-finishing service, it expanded it 1919 and diversified into the production of scenic postcards. It was ideally placed, therefore, for further diversification when the then-president of Sawyers, Harold Graves, met an inventor, William Gruber.
The meeting took place by chance in the Oregon Caves in 1938. William Gruber was using two Kodak Bantam Specials to take stereo pairs of pictures.
Gruber grew up in Germany; when he moved to the United States of America he got a job building pianos and organs but maintained his interest in photography and especially stereo photography.
He invented the basic View-Master system - round discs carrying stereo pairs and a simple-to-operate hand-held viewer. The size of the stereo images was decided in order to make economic use of 35 mm. film - the pictures use half the width of 35 mm. film and therefore a stereo pair of pictures is half the cost of one standard 35 mm. picture. This may seem unimportant now, when 35 mm. film is relatively cheap, but in 1938 Kodachrome was new and relatively expensive.
Harold Graves must have really liked the idea - by the end of 1938 the first viewers and reels were in production.
The idea caught on - and not just with children. The viewers and reels were marketed as family entertainment which were also educational.
During the war, Sawyers was kept busy making - among other things - training reels for the Army and the Navy.
Other educational projects included a set of reels to accompany a book on anatomy.
In 1951, Sawyers purchased rival company Tru-Vue. This acquisition gave Sawyers a Disney licence and Disney reels were released soon after.
Advertising for the GAF Talking View-Master gift pak
Sawyers was bought by GAF in 1967. GAF failed to maintain the momentum, despite innovative products like the Talking View-Master system.
In 1981, the View-Master International Group (VMI) bought View-Master, and in 1984 the Ideal Toy Company bought VMI.
In 1989 Tyco bought View-Master to add to their successful range of toys. In 1997 Mattel Inc. (probably best known for Barbie) merged with Tyco.
View-Master Harry Potter sets released in 2001 by Fisher Price. Although carrying the View-Master name, these sets do not contain View-Maaster reels. Instead, there are cards, each carrying one pair of pictures.
The View-Master name is now owned by Fisher-Price.
Any of these change-of-ownership dates are used by collectors as a cut-off point for their collections, 1981 probably being the most popular because it was around 1981 that the packets were replaced by blister packs.
Despite this, modern View-Master products are attractive to children and many collectors alike.