Norma Lenz Gruber
Her Gruber Foundation completed
the View-Master Chinese Art Set after
William Gruber passed away
August 9, 1916 - September 6, 2006 (90 years old)
1944 Norma Lenz Gruber by Karl Kurz
1938 Wedding of William Gruber to Norma Lenz 23 April performed by Judge Kansler - Colorized -_LeiaPix
1944 Norma and William Gruber in Joshua Tree Nat'l Park by Karl Kurz
Emma C Beck Lenz, Norma Lenz Gruber Schofield's mother - LeiaPix
1944 Norma Lenz Gruber 28 yrs old by Karl Kurz
1967 Norma Lenz Gruber at the William B Gruber Memorial Park at GAF Factory, Beaverton, OR - Colorized - LeiaPix
1951 William Gruber holding his youngest child Gretchen -Colorized LeiaPix
1970 Norma Gruber mother of View-Master, with Chinese Art Set and focusing viewer - Colorized LeiaPix_2x1
1978 GAF Corp exterior sign in Beaverton OR
by Susan Pinsky
1978_07_26 Susan Pinsky, Karl Kurz and Norma Gruber
by Marilyn Felling - LeiaPix_2x1 2
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master pix 7 - carved jade
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master pix 4 - brown jade
1955 Karl, a man, Linde, Norma, Ilse and Dee Dee Gruber
in Hawaii - LeiaPix 2x1
1989_08_03 View-Master Factory reel-making machine with David Starkman and two workers Portland by David Burder
1978_07_25 Susan Pinsky at GAF Gruber Memorial Park
in Beaverton, OR by Marilyn Felling LeiaPix_2x1
1989_08_05 NSA Portland OR Marilyn Morton, David Burder
and Norma Gruber at banquet by Susan Pinsky
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master pix 6 - porcelain
1989_08_03 View-Master Factory reel insertion machine at GAF Factory, Beaverton, OR by David Burder
1978_07_26 Karl Kurz with Norma Gruber Schofield 2 Portland OR by Susan Pinsky
1978_06_12 Letter from Norma M. Gruber, The Gruber Foundation to Susan Pinsky and David Starkman at
Reel 3-D Enterprises regarding selling the Chinese Art Sets
1987_06_19 David Starkman at our storage unit filled with View-Master Chinese Art sets
by Susan Pinsky - LeiaPix 2x1
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master pillow stoneware 5
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master bronze vessel 2
1989 NSA Portland OR Norma Gruber, Cynthia Morton and Jean Poulot by Susan Pinsky
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master jade with gilt-bronze 1
1967 Memorial Park for William Gruber colorized
1973 July Book Review in The Connoisseur publication
Asia Society letter from Lionel Landry, Exec Vice
regarding publishing The Chinese Art Set
Carved Jade object 1 - LeiaPix_2x1
Chinese Art sample reel View-Master stoneware cup -
Chinese Art description of objects and number of pictures per Volume
Advertisement for Chinese Art Set in Apollo and Oriental Arts magazine
Chinese Art promotional flyer from Reel 3-D Enterprises
1978 Susan Pinsky standing in front of GAF View-Master factory by Marilyn Felling
Norma Lenz Gruber with three children by William Gruber
Norma, William, Karl, Dee Dee, and Linde Gruber family portrait - Colorized LeiaPix_2x1
View Master CHINESE ART set with viewer LeiaPix_2x1
Norma Gruber and the Chinese Art Sets
by Susan Pinsky & David Starkman, October 2022
In the early years of View-Master reel production, employees were strictly told never to refer to the product as a "toy"! The reels and viewers were originally only sold in camera stores, and they were created and manufactured as a modern update on the classic black-and-white stereo cards. They allowed full-color three-dimensional armchair travel to places and events all over the world. Just as the classic stereo cards were used in classrooms to teach geography, the factory also looked at the View-Master reels as a potential teaching tool.
The first projector that View-Master made, the S1, was designed with the classroom in mind. It included a built-in pointer, and a reflex viewing window which allowed the reel captions to be read during projection.
William Gruber, the inventor of the View-Master system, personally wanted to see the reels used in educational subjects, and he was behind the very elaborate "Mushrooms in their Natural Habitats" book and reels, and also the "Alpine Wildflowers" reels and book.
Chinese art objects (every category except for flat paintings) were also a fascination of Mr. Gruber, and, along with a scholarly author to write the book, early on set out to take photos of objects in both public, and private, collections to create a comprehensive three-dimensional record of centuries of Chinese art. This was a personal project of his, not one of the View-Master factory's normal production. However, before the project was completed (Gruber was doing the 3-D photography for the book), William passed away in 1965, at age 62.
After his death, Norma Gruber, and partner Jeanne Brost, created the Gruber Foundation to complete the project. Rupert Leach, Senior Photographer at View-Master, was hired to finish the 3-D photography, and, using the resources of the View-Master factory, the Gruber Foundation completed the project. The end result was a limited edition (1000 sets) four volume set, with 44 to 48 reels included with each book - a total of 1,260 three dimensional photos presented. To view the images in the best possible way, the set also included a customized version of the Model D Focusing View-Master viewer, on a special stand.
Our connection to Norma Gruber, and the Chinese Art sets, began with a letter to us from Norma, dated June 12th, 1978, where she introduces herself to us, and included a brochure with a specimen reel about the "Chinese Art in Three Dimensional Colour" books. She thought that the sets might be a product that could be sold through our newsletter, "Reel 3-D News".
We agreed, and our first sales announcement of the sets was in the September 1978 issue of "Reel 3-D News". The original retail price of the sets (books with viewer) was $400. At that price we sold a small number of books every year. However, in 1987, we negotiated to buy ALL of the remaining stock of 582 book sets, and 882 spare viewers, which allowed us to significantly lower the price to $175 for the set, and $95 for the viewers only. A year later we lowered the price of the sets to $165, and the viewers to $85. By 1994 the last set was sold.
We tell this story, because we want to convey that without Norma's hard work, and creation of The Gruber Foundation (along with Jeanne Brost), the books would never have been finished, produced or marketed.
For us, the bonus was not only being able to bring the books back onto the market at a much more affordable price, but to get to know and deal with Norma. She was a gracious and remarkable woman, and we are fortunate to have been able to know her and work with her.
We know that she was an inspiration to her husband, and deserves recognition in the world of View-Master.
"VIEW MASTER, the biography of William B Gruber" book -
by Gretchen Jane Gruber
available on Amazon.com
The following are quotes from the fascinating book by Gretchen Jane Gruber, which describes the background on the effort involved in creating, producing and finishing the unique Chinese Art set of View-Master reels and text.
"At Sawyer's [in 1960], [President] Bob Brost continued to mind the helm, but changes were afoot. Sawyer's didn't back this project. Chinese art was such a specialized field that the project couldn't break even. William, who had artistic control, forged on ahead. As he said in his diary, he "bombarded" the Department of Visual Education at Sawyer's with his idea. He asked for no reimbursement for his work. In a letter, he stated:
"I assure you that I will have no monetary interest in this project. The thing that propels me is my deep appreciation and love for the arts. I want to make this a contribution to
the arts, and it must become a superb one!"
"The Chinese government had announced that the priceless Imperial
Collection of Chinese art would be traveling to America, where it would
be displayed at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. William realized that this announcement provided him the perfect opportunity to begin his work. Sawyer's would need approval from the Chinese government for William to gain access to the collection. This started a year of negotiations, with Bob Brost going to bat for William all the way. Brost had contacted U.S. State Senator Wayne Morse and other government officials to expedite matters.
While he was waiting the go-ahead to start shooting, William used the
time to experiment with photographic methods on his own collection. Each
type of object presented a different challenge to film. There could be no glare or reflection from lighting. There could be no shadow cast in the background to distort the outlines of each piece. William's knowledge of photography was put to the ultimate test. He remarked:
At this very time, the Eastman Kodak Company has released a new colour film called Kodachrome Type A, No.
2. Thus far, I have been using
Kodachrome Type A, No.1. This new film is said to be vastly superior in rendering overlapping and transitional pastel hues from its three-colour base. It is also more than twice as fast. This claim makes it imperative to me to use it on the porcelains, as it was up till now impossible to obtain certain very special hues which are evident, particularly in the celedons, even
within the Ju's. It is not a simple matter to acquaint oneself with the idiosyncrasies and trickeries of a new colour film. I am now in the process of experimentation. It may take me two months to know it well enough to take the risk of photographing these priceless objects, an opportunity that may be offered only ONCE."
"By June 1962, William had gained permission from the National Palace
and Central Museum in Taichung, Republic of China, to photograph the
collection. The resulting photographs of the Imperial Collection taken in San Francisco were as impressive as William had hoped, which gave him energy to keep going."
"William's research put gave him renewed him in touch with Sir Harry Garner, who was president of the Oriental Ceramic Society in England, and was a highly respected expert in all types of antique Chinese art forms. In 1948, he had been the last person ever to be knighted by King George at Buckingham Palace. Recognized for his service to the throne as the central director of Air
Scientific Research, Ministry of Supply, during WWII, his knighthood carried the abbreviations CB, KBE, which meant he was a Most Honorable Companion of the Order of the Bath, and had received the British Empire Medal. Sir Harry was a brilliant, soft-spoken man. He had a twinkle in his eye and a huge presence, even though he was of slight build. He commanded respect not by intimidation, but by his gentle, calm authority. He had written a book on blue and white Chinese porcelain that was accepted by the community to be the last word on the subject.
William and Sir Harry teamed up to get the Chinese art project moving forward. Sir Harry agreed to write the text for the four-volume set.
It was decided that the volumes be separated into the following categories:
ceramics and jades, bronzes and lacquer, gold and silver, hard stones and ivory, bone and glass, wood and horn, metal, and cloisonné and textiles. Sir Harry persuaded Margaret Medley, who was curator of the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, to assist him in selecting the objects for the massive undertaking. Between the two of them, their connections were to
prove invaluable to the project. Sir Harry received the go-ahead from the
British Museum to allow William access to their collection.
William would be the only non-staff photographer in the museum's
history to be allowed this freedom and honor. He began filming in October of 1963. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Bristol Art Gallery, and the Ashmolean at Oxford, all gave permission to have their collections combed through
by Sir Harry and Margaret for just the right examples. William approached owners of private collections worldwide to participate in the project."
"With each introductory letter, he sent a View-Master and some reels, so that they could experience firsthand the excellent quality of the system. After collectors saw how astonishing the 3-D photographs were, they eagerly became a part of the project. They realized that there would be no royalties as a result of the
undertaking, and yet William's unflagging enthusiasm swept them up."
"William Biller Gruber passed away at New England Baptist Hospital, Boston Massachusetts, on October 15, 1965. The cause of his death was listed as metastatic liver cancer. He was sixty-two years, four months, and fifteen days old. His body was cremated, and his ashes were
placed in a bronze urn, which is hidden under a remote rocky outcropping on the slopes of Oregon's Mount Hood."
"Norma, with the help of Bob [and Jeanne] Brost and Rupert Leach, had his last project finished and published by the Asia Society in 1971. Chinese Art in Three Dimensional Colour is now, like the original mushroom, wildflower, and anatomy series, rare, and highly prized by collectors the world over."
"Norma married James P. Schofield in 1970. She died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on September 6, 2006. At the end of her life, when she had forgotten almost everything, she often called out for William. Her remains rest in the Pioneer cemetery in Ukiah, Oregon."
"More than one and a half billion View-Master viewers have been
of American produced. The View-Master has taken its place as a treasured part of life and has collectors and fan clubs all over the world."