Underwood and Underwood was established in 1882 by Bert and Elmer Underwood in Ottawa, Kansas. Originally they distributed stereographs made by eastern photographers in the Western United States. In 1884, they had expanded their franchise across North America and by 1889 opened offices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Liverpool, England. By 1890 Underwood & Underwood began publishing original stereographs taken by Bert Underwood. Underwood & Underwood was considered one of the most successful stereoscope publishers in North America in 1901.Underwood & Underwood began producing 25,000 views per day and 300,000 stereoscopes annually. It is suggested that in the earlier years of the company, Underwood & Underwood used H.C. White Company’s stereoscope model until developing their own. The principle stereoscope design by Underwood & Underwood included aluminum hoods, cardholders, and a folding handle. An easy identifiable feature of Underwood & Underwood stereoscopes is the friction joint built to fold the handle.
In 1910 the firm began specialising in news photography, ultimately stopping production of stereographs in 1920. Between 1912 and 1925 the company would sell the entirety of their glass stereo collection to competitor Keystone View Co.. By 1925 both brothers retired, leading to the reorganization of the company into four independent organisations all staying beneath the title of "Underwood & Underwood." These four branches included Underwood & Underwood Illustration Studios of New York, Chicago and Detroit; Underwood & Underwood Portraits, Inc., New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland; Underwood & Underwood, Washington and Chicago; Underwood & Underwood News Photos, Inc., New York.