Micro-photography was invented in Europe in 1839. About two decades later, shortly before microphotographs were embedded in the devices we today call Stanhopes, the following article appeared in this Wisconsin newspaper:

The Prescott Transcript

Prescott, Pierce County, Wisconsin
Saturday, July 31, 1858
Vol. 4  No.23

   "A MICROSCOPIC WONDER.—.We have had the pleasure of seeing recently a microscopic photograph, which is truly a very remarkable curiosity. Upon the object glass appears a small speck, occupying the space of six by seven and a half hundredths of an inch—About the size of a square lead in an ordinary lead pencil before it is cut—appearing to the unaided vision only as a stain or slight discoloration upon the glass. But the microscope reveals it to be a complete copy of the Declaration of Independence, with the names of the signers in full containing no less than 7850 letters; every one of which is a finished specimen of typography, and the whole, under a high magnilying power, can be seen with the utmost distinctness and read with the utmost ease. The letters are only one twenty-four hundredth of an inch in size but are perfectly formed and elegant.-This wonderful achievement of the photographic art was brought from Paris by Mr. D. P. Ives, and is the property of George A. Perking—Salem Register."


What's the Big Deal About Stanhopes? 

The image inside a quality Stanhope appears remarkably big, clear and detailed even though the trinket holding the image is small.  This startling visual effect is the result of magnification of a microscopic photograph embedded inside the contraption.   The microphotograph is about the same size as the diameter of the wire of a paper clip or the tip of a reasonably sharp lead pencil. 

Given how striking the effect still is today, one can only imagine how extraordinary it seemed to viewers back in the 1860s and 70s when new technological innovations first led to the invention, manufacture and commercialization of these optical marvels.

If you have questions about American political stanhopes or would like to sell your American political stanhopes, please contact:


The Stanhope Images on this Website

The microphotographs in Stanhopes are about one millimeter -- or about 4 one-hundredths of an inch -- square.  (By way of comparison, a U.S. dime is 1.35 millimeters thick.)  Nonetheless, by using a microscope, camera, and computer, it is now possible to take digital photographs of the microphotographs in Stanhopes. 

The following pages of this website contain digital photographs, taken through a microscope, of the images embedded in the Stanhopes in my personal collection of political Stanhopes. 
Ken Scott, an expert in this type of photography, took the photos.  Click here to read Ken's explanation of how he took these amazing photographs.

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Introduction to American Political Stanhopes

What's a Stanhope?

A Stanhope is a tiny rod-shaped lens with a microphotograph attached to one end. The lens is inserted into a “holder.”  Commonly found holders include pens, pencils, letter openers, tape measures, jewelry, charms, thimbles, miniature binoculars or monoculars, and other trinkets.  When held up to the light -- natural daylight is best -- one can look through the lens and view the microscopic image with remarkable clarity.  In their heyday from the mid-1860s through about 1920, Stanhopes were made with a wide variety of  images, including: tourist attractions, famous buildings, important historical events, international exhibitions, religious symbols, naked women and famous people, including British and European royalty, American civil war heroes, and American political leaders.

The Stanhope Pigs

If you are a political items collector, you have probably at one time or another looked up the rear end of a one-inch long lead pig to see a surprisingly detailed image -- more specifically, a greatly magnified microphotograph -- of Benjamin Harrison, William Jennings Bryan, Teddy Roosevelt or any one of twelve other presidential candidates. 

These particular Stanhopes were sold as election novelties and were created for every Democratic and Republican Lead Pigpresidential nominee from 1872 through 1912. Often but not always printed beneath the image of the candidate are the words, “Our Next President” or “For President” and the candidate’s name.  Frequently used as watch fobs, these Stanhope pigs were marketed as “learned pigs” that could predict the victor of the upcoming presidential contest – and all one had to do to find out who the winner would be is to look into the pig’s rear end.

Beyond the Pigs

But political items collectors may be surprised to learn that the pigs comprise only a modest Monocularsubset of the Stanhopes that contain American political images.  Stanhopes with political images were also inserted into tiny monoculars and binoculars, pens, letter openers, watches, walking canes, and a great many other types of Stanhope holders.  And, in fact, these holders contain a far broader array of political images than do the pigs. 

Some common Stanhope holders.  Photo courtesy of Ken and Jean Scott. 

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