The TRUE-VIEW stereoscope shown
below was manufactured by Signalling Equipment Ltd, Merit House,
Potters Bar, Middlesex, England, some time in the early 1950's when it
sold for 17s/6d (87.5p), this included two films strips. SEL was a
subsidiary of J & L Randall Ltd, a toy and games maker that had many
products sold under the Merit brand name. SEL were also well known for
making Morse Code keys.
Little is know of the SEL company and
the viewer is one of the stereoscopic world's mysteries.
It is almost identical in every
way to the
similarly named TRU-VUE viewer from 1947,
which was made in Illinois, USA. No records appear to exist to prove if
there was any link between the two companies. The True-View viewer may
have been a blatant attempt to copy a successful product from another
country or it may have been the subject of a licensing agreement. An
alternative theory is that when Sawyers purchased TRU-VUE they ceased
production of the product in the USA, as it was a rival to their own
products and the moulds were somehow obtained by SEL. This seems quite
likely and would explain the almost exact nature of the copy.
In all, only 25 to 30 stereo film strips were
every produced for the TRUE-VIEW viewer, all of the subjects were based within the
United Kingdom. Even the format of the images, title slide and boxes
were copied, as can be seen in the photographs below. One difference in
the film used is that the English film strips were black and white,
whereas the USA films were more commonly sepia.
Was there a marketing agreement
between the two companies? or was it simply a case of plagiarism?
We may never know. Whatever the truth, the TRUE-VIEW has long since
disappeared into history, along with SEL company.
Interestingly this is not the only
viewer that has carried the name TRUE-VIEW. In the late 1950's there was
an inferior quality clone made in Hong Kong, whilst of a similar design,
it was designed to show cards, rather than film strips. It can be seen
The two boxes are incredibly
similar, even down to the slogan," Pictures with Depth"
Words are written on the inside of
both box lids
The film boxes are very similar,
even sharing the same striping pattern.
A title slide from each
manufacturer, both very 'art deco' in style
Two frames taken from the True-View film No. 1 London