Samuel Clifford was a commercial photographer. From circa 1859 to 1878 his studio was at 132 Liverpool Street, Hobart, Tasmania. He won awards at exhibitions in 1865 and 1866, and a bronze medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870
Seventeen loose stereoscope cards measuring approximately 175 x 86 mm., each with two mounted prints measuring approximately 75 x 75 mm., showing scenes in the countryside around Hobart. All prints (with one exception) have a label stuck to the reverse stating 'Views in Tasmania. Bush scenery. S Clifford, photographer, Hobart Town,' and handwritten captions, and, in some cases, brief explanations. The seventeen cards do not appear to be a set and were probably purchased at different times; not all the cards are the same colour, the prints are not trimmed in a uniform way (some with rounded edges, some square) or to the same size, and the photographer's label is in five different designs.
Stereoscopic cards give an astonishingly realistic three-dimensional effect when seen through a viewer, and were tremendously popular throughout the nineteenth century. The theory of binocular vision, and the way in which the eyes assess depth and perspective was well understood, and Sir David Brewster had suggested its photographic application as early as 1849. The impetus to its commercial success, however, came with the presentation to Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition of a series of fine stereoscopic daguerreotypes. Her interest stimulated a vast demand, and it was not until well into the twentieth century that the popularity of this form of photograph finally died.
Dating of the prints is from a printed notice on the reverse of two of the mounts which states that Samuel Clifford received medals for photography at exhibitions in 1865 and 1866. The fifteen cards which do not state this can assume to have been taken 1865, the two cards which do can be dated between 1866 and 1870 since Clifford won further awards at the Intercolonial Exhibition in 1870, and these have not yet appeared on his advertisement. No information is given as to the donor but the pictures were probably sent to relatives in England: a note on the reverse of card 7 gives further explanatory information about the picture, which would be unlikely to be known by someone outside Australia, and also refers to 'a passage of my first letter.'