UPDATE! Vacation Viewer- Do You Know What This Is Called?

2018 Update! I see I’m not the only one who loves these viewers  – as the fine folks at Roadside America are also fans – here’s a link to their interview with Greg Rising of Tower Optical who make these Binocular Viewers

And a few more photos I’ve collected over the years!

Viewing the Golden Gate Bridge:

Golden Gate Bridge Vacation Viewer

Ocean City Maryland

Vacation Viewer

Lake George New York:
Three Musketeers on Vacation


I love using these viewers whenever I see them, and am a fan of the solid design and almost human face of it. Does anyone know what the history of these things are? I don’t even know their official name to search for it?

UPDATE! My friend Lori says they’re simply called Coin Operated Viewers*! Thanks to her I was able to find out that the ones I love the look of have been made for the last 75 years by the Tower Optical Company of Norwalk Connecticut!


* OR you can call ’em viewfinder, viewing machine, viewing scope, viewing stand, outdoor viewer, tower viewer, scenic viewer, coin-operated binocular viewer, coin-operated viewfinder, coin-operated viewing machine, coin-operated viewing scope, coin-operated viewing stand, coin-operated outdoor viewer, coin-operated tower viewer, coin-operated scenic viewer, non-coin operated binocular viewer, non-coin operated viewfinder, non-coin operated viewing machine, non-coin operated viewing scope, non-coin operated viewing stand, non-coin operated outdoor viewer, non-coin operated tower viewer, non-coin operated scenic viewer, free-use binocular viewer, free-use viewfinder, free-use viewing machine, free-use viewing scope, free-use viewing stand, free-use outdoor viewer, free-use tower viewer, free-use scenic viewer…!

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  • Lacy
    June 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Pretty cool post. I just came across your site and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  • Suzanne McGillicuddy
    June 25, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Your question got me wondering myself since I love these things and take pics of them whenever I see them.

    Looky here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davedunne/sets/72157601369429330/

    • modbetty
      June 25, 2009 at 10:58 pm

      oh hey, how cool, thanks for the link Suzanne!

  • Debbie
    September 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Does anyone know where I can find one to buy?
    I am designing a garden that has a fabulous view and would like to put one on their patio just for fun and as a conversation piece. I found the Tower Optical website but they are a manufacturer. I am checking restoration houses and vintage shops in my area but after that, I don’t know where to look.

    • modbetty
      September 16, 2009 at 11:47 am


      I can’t think of a place, but let me do some investigation and see what I can find out!

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