Conventional wisdom dictates that VistaScreen was founded by the Spring brothers and Stanley Long for one purpose – to make British views of British subjects, aimed at the British and tourist markets. Long is supposed to have photographed most of, if not all of, the 300+ sets that the company released; while occasionally straying outside of the UK (for example, to County Cork), none of the order forms or pamphlets in my collection, nor any that I’ve seen online, have ever mentioned continental sets – and certainly nothing I’ve seen has ever suggested that the company had any intention of marketing their views in other countries, or of printing them in other languages.
That is, nothing I’d seen until last week. While I was trawling a French site looking for Great War glass, I happened to type “VistaScreen” into a search field, and got a single result – the following stereoview:
I immediately queried the seller as to whether he had any more, and he did indeed have another single card – from the same circus-themed series:
Excitedly, I immediately worked out a sale with him, and the two views arrived today. These views prove several things – firstly, that VistaScreen produced French-language series, probably all bearing the ‘E’ series designation. Secondly, that some of these views found their way across the English Channel – whether they were marketed in France, or whether they were bought in England by native French speakers – which seems less likely. And thirdly, that there are almost certainly other series besides this one.
What cannot be deduced is whether these images were taken in France, and whether they were taken by Stanley Long. In general, Long’s series were each captured on a single day trip or weekend vacation; the company did not have the money to send him all over the world, which generally led to their hyper-Anglocentric topics. But could he have popped over to the Continent now and again, to catch a series in France or Belgium, or some other country? It certainly now seems a possibility.
Sadly, these are the only two images I could find of the (presumably) 10-card series. But I’m glad to have them – they prove something new about VistaScreen, and they’re circus-themed, which I love. They’re both quite good, photographically speaking, as opposed to the hit-or-miss quality of the various Bertram Mills Circus sets that the company put out. I’d love to know more about the circus pictured, but the “JR” visible in the background is precious little to go on in terms of identifying the troupe.
Given the lack of information out there about VistaScreen after they sold everything off to Weetabix, losing their records and negatives in the process, this is a completely new concept to me – French VistaScreens. Are there German VistaScreens? Norwegian ones? At this point, what seemed inconceivable a month ago now seems at least possible. If any readers have information (or French VistaScreens for sale/trade), please do let me know!