The Graphic Arts Collection holds a set of 125 French stereoscopic glass slides depicting mountaineers ascending and descending Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, in the summer of 1908. The date is significant because that was the year a railroad opened to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (or Chamonix), a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. The tourist industry grew quickly offering visitors spectacular views, exceptional alpine skiing, and dangerous glacial climbs.
The Office de Tourisme de la vallée de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc provides a brief history: “The first inn opens in 1770 and marks the early development of the hotel trade and the first mountaineering exploits. The conquest of mont Blanc in 1786, contributes to the demystification of the summits and seals the destiny of this mountain community. The influence of pre-romantic and romantic writers also helps to alleviate the fear of the unknown and consecrates the mountains as being an expression of nature totally preserved. The first luxury hotel was built in 1816 and the hotel industry continued to thrive through the 1800’s, crowned by 3 splendid palaces built in the early 1900’s.”