“View Master: The Biography of William B Gruber” Immigrant Success Story
$150 seems to be a magic number for German immigrants. William B Gruber and my father both arrived here in the United States with $150 in their pockets. From there they chose different paths. In tge book, “View Master, The Biography of William B Gruber”, his daughter Gretchen J Gruber lovingly shares the story of an immigrant who lived through difficult times in Germany, and then used his training, imagination, work ethic, and love of outdoors make himself a true American success story. William Gruber, the View Master inventor, was a hard working family man who did not let his past get in the way. I guess in this way, he was a lot like my own father … and perhaps that’s why this book pulled me in.
From Germany to America
Willi Gruber was born in 1903, in Munich, and was 11 when WWI broke out. Because he was a small boy, he wasn’t suited to apprentice in the family business of blacksmithing. Instead, he found a place with a Piano builder. Germany in the time between the wars was difficult. Food shortages and inflation meant that you needed to be resourceful to not go hungry. And Willi was a resourceful boy. Still, he was caught up by the Red Army, escaped, and later, with joined the National Socialist party, as many others did at the time, because he believed that Hitler would fix Germany’s problems.
His skilled hands and perfect pitch meant he did well in his trade, in piano and organ repair, so well, that he found a postition in America. He sailed from Hamburg in 1924, and made it all the way to the West Coast on his last dime.
Despite the distance, he remained in close contact with his familiy in Germany. The book is filled with excerts of letters relating life in Germany in the late 1920s through late 1930s. William Gruber made no secret about his belief that Hitler would pull Germany out of the hole it landed in after WWI, and bring it back to greatness. These feelings would change over time… but they would come back to haunt him and his family when he was brought to the FBI’s attention during WWII.
The View Master Inventor
Working with pianos and organs might have been his trade, but his first loves were photography and the outdoors. As a young man he spent much time hiking in the Alps whenever he could, and now in the United States, he hiked the mountains in Oregon. He was constantly photographing the beauty around him, and looking for ways to improve his images.
The idea for viewing images in “stereo” for depth was not new. But Willi came up with a way to rotate the images on a disk in a special viewer. This invention was revolutionary! As a child, I had a viewmaster of my own. But it was a later version… plastic… and my disks were of Disney films or animals. I had no idea about the history behind this window to the world. Willi Gruber’s Viewmaster was designed for much more.
The first major series was on Alpine Wildflowers. Nothing like this had ever been done before. A thorough documenting of wildflowers in their habitat. And companies saw use for this style of images in the education market. The biggest project… Anatomy lessons with hundreds of images for students in medical schools. In 3-D! It was revolutionary! The View Master took off like a rocket! (like the rockets you could later see with your View Master!) Mushrooms, mountains, animals and children’s stories. If if could be photographed, it could be photographed with a special 3 -D camera, and seen by anyone who had a viewer.
William Gruber himself will feel a bit familiar to anyone who grew up with a German father. He worked hard, but the family and his home were the center of his world. His wife and children, his parents, extended family. Letters back and forth between Germany and America show that his connections stayed strong, and his expections were strict.
“View Master The Biography of William B Gruber” is the story of an Immigrant’s success in the United States. Gretchen Gruber gives us a peek into her father’s world… warts and all. Her father lived life to the fullest. Along the way he photographed important people and events, and created a lasting legacy to science. Like most successful people, he worked hard, played hard, never slowed down, never let things get in his way when he could work through them.
And he left us all with an amazing new way to view the world.
Gretchen Gruber is hoping to have a documentary made about her father… watch this page for more information!
Order View Master HERE
Vintage View Masters
Classic ViewMaster- Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs Area – 3Reel Packet – 21 3D Images from 1950sClassic ViewMaster – United States Travel – Grand Canyon National Park Packet No. 1 – 3Reel Packet – 21 3D images from 1970’sNiagara Falls,New York and Canada – 3 ViewMaster Classic Vintage 3D Reels
Make your OWN Viewmaster Reels
Today’s View Master
View-Master Experience Pack DestinationsView Master Discovery Kids Marine LifeVIEW-MASTER VIEWMASTER 21 3D images DISCOVERY KIDS Dinosaurs marine safari NEW by UnbrandedBig Game Toys~3D Dinosaur Viewer with BGT Tote Bag 21 Photo Images T-Rex Dino Skeleton Focusing Option Viewmaster View Master SetBirds of The World – Ornithology – Classic ViewMaster – 3 Reel SetPooh’s High Flying Adventure – Disney – Classic ViewMaster 3 Reel Set – 21 3D ImagesView Master: Thomas the Tank EngineWild Animals On Safari – Classic ViewMaster – 3 Reels on Card – NewViewMaster – Elmo Wants to Play – Sesame Street – 3 Reels on Card