In June 1929, Leo J. Scanlon (1903-1999) and Chester B. Roe founded the Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The following year Leo and a group of friends, including Chester, made the journey to the 1930 Stellafane convention, which attracted just under one hundred registered guests.
So moved was Leo that as soon as he returned home he sat down and typed a detailed journal of their experiences, running on to forty-one pages. His dedication to the task allows us a rare view of one of the early conventions at Stellafane and the following excerpts are taken from his account. That he was obsessive at recording detail is an understatement, as evidenced by his opening.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 13th.
Left Buffalo at 8:30 P.M., drove all night, stopping at Albany about 9 A.M., drove all morning through Pittsfield, Mass. Up through Adams and North Adams to Greenfield, where we arrived at 1:08, just a few minutes too late to catch the :06 Boston and Maine train out of Greenfield to Charlestown, N.H., the nearest rail point to Springfield, Vt. Ate a light dinner, and spent the interval in the library, until at 4:50 fast time, the train left Greenfield for Charlestown. On the way it began to rain, but when we arrived at Charlestown N.H. it had stopped. Got on the street car at the station, and rode 6 miles more to Springfield, during which time it rained again, and continued until we arrived at the Hotel Adnabrown.
FRIDAY AUGUST 15th.
After Lunch, Mr. Pierce, per agreement, came back to the hotel about 1:30 and I got in his car, while (Harry) Gilchrist followed with his brother and sister, and Roe. Drove up the road to Stellafane, about 3-4 miles, all uphill, across two bridges, up narrow dirt roads, through a fence, across a sloping hill, through a dense pine forest on a glorified cow path, and emerging from the trees, were THERE, AT OUR JOURNEY'S END!
Piled out, and as the road approached from the South, viewed that side of the building first. It was here that Porter had painted his Sundial, together with a table of corrections for the year. Here also was the pier for the 16" sun telescope, and on the second floor was the shutter through which they admitted the light. Projecting through the wall was also the mounting of a Polar Cassegranian (sic), 10", with eyepiece inside the building.
After viewing the workshop, we entered into the kitchen, where was set up a large coal stove, wood fired, with lumber cut down outside the building, which was stacked under a sheltering porch outside the kitchen door, together with an axe and chopping block. The chimney was of brick, with an opening for the kitchen, and on the opposite side a cheery open fireplace, with andirons, pot hook, and all the trimmings. The chimney was the work of Porter, who acted as Mason. On the chimney in the soft cement covering the bricks over the kitchen stove, is the "characteristic Curve" together with the year of its inscription. In the kitchen is a large black iron sink, with the waste draining into some unknown spot (I was too much interested in plumbing to trace it out, but it had no trap, I did notice that). There were no water connections, water being carried from a spring about 200 yards down the hill.
Entering the living room, we (at least I) confined our immediate attention to those objects lying closest. The first things I noticed attentively were four Plaster of Paris discs, each one about 7" in diameter, and about 1" thick, each flat on one side, while on the other the four surfaces were representative of the "characteristic curve" the oblate spheroid, the raised zone appearance, and the depressed zone appearance. These were the original models of the illustrations in the Amateur Telescope Maker, of the mirror under knife edge tests.
There was also on the mantle over the fireplace the original model of the "conic sections" illustration. This was a wooden cone, black in color, about 5 to 6" in height, the diameter of the base being about 4". It was cut in such a manner to show the circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola, just as illustrated in the handbook. On the mantle there was a photo of the Moon, in a frame, while over the mantle were a series of Moon Photographs, possibly eight or ten in number, each about 6" diameter, showing the moon at various stages. To the left of the doorway as you entered from the Kitchen, there was attached to the wall, a large "Full Moon" map, about 18" diameter, made in Europe. On the table just under this map, in the corner, there was a reprint of a map of the moon sketched by Porter, which looked very realistic. The important craters and features were named on the map.
On the west wall of the room, in the same corner as this map and table, is a black board, covered with half erased sketches of mounting details, and explanations of mathematical problems.
To continue our journey along the west wall, next to be seen in an opening about 8" square in the boards, covered with a wooden cover, upon removing which showed a plate outside the wall of the building, having screwed in it several adjusting screws. Inquiry of Mr. Pierce revealed that this was the mount for Porter's Meridian transit, the main axis of which lay under the table next to be described. Later inquiry revealed that the Prism so necessary in this instrument was in Porter's California abode, so that it was not accessible for use.
A stock size window occupies the remainder of the west wall of the building. Along the upper sash of this, as well as the other windows in the place, are hung transparencies of Nebula, Clusters, Sun spots and discs etc. obtained from Mount Wilson. There are 12 in all, each no less than 7" square, and run about $40.00, which money was received as a donation from some kind hearted individual.
A doorway occupies the center of the North wall of the room. At the right of the frame as one leaves, hangs a picture of John Brashear, given to the boys by Mr. Hartness, who was a good friend of "Uncle John". Directly under this, is a picture of Porter himself.
Over this book rack, between the ceiling timbers, and on the opposite side of the room occupying similar positions there, were about 18 of Porter's drawings, each one representing a member of the TMS, including Ingalls and Everest. All of the members are not represented in this collection.
Over the mantle there was an original oil painting by Brown, of a prominence on the sun, in colors, such as appeared on a recent cover of the Siam. It was apparently made from one of the Transparencies in the rack over the window, as they were very much alike in detail.
There was also in the remaining corner of the room, next to the elevating stairway, an original painting of a group of scientists examining a reflected image of the sun, on the wall of a room. (This also appeared in Sciam)
In the South East corner of the building first floor Living Room, was suspended the movable stairway, leading to the two upstairs sleeping rooms, where there were two double beds, apparently not used recently. We helped Pierce fold up Porter's cot, on which he had slept last night, and carry it up stairs for future use.
About this time we wandered around outside a bit, as the drizzling seemed to be over for a bit, and went down to see "Porter's folly" in the making. The concrete work had been recently completed, and the castings for the polar axis had been set. The wooden part of the building was complete, and had been given a coat of Aluminum Paint yesterday. The steps were finished, the forms being still in place, and in the corner of each was imbedded a copper penny.
The skeleton support for the mirror was in place, as well as the cell for the flat. I neglected to mention that the 16" mirror for this telescope was on the small table in the living room, and the 16" flat, with central hole, on the large well-occupied table in the living room, each in an aluminum case with cover. We lifted both covers off, and inspected the mirror and flat. One side of the mirror has a 16 ft. focus for use in the new mounting, while the other is ground to 70' focal length, for use as sun telescope.
The following entry is the only known account of the origin of the iron man that became the internationally recognized logo of the Springfield Telescope Makers, Inc. after first appearing on the 1971 convention program. It is not known who actually made the iron man. The hanging ox-yoke also appeared for the first time at the 1930 convention.
Pierce had completed the mounting of his transparencies, and brought outside a wrought iron sign made by one of the local boys. We tried different locations for it, and finally decided to hang it directly over the central North Door. It was necessary to bend the lower part of the bracket, which Pierce and I did in the vise in the shop, cutting off the surplus piece at the bottom, which interfered with the opening of the screen door, and securing a ladder, proceeded to nail it up.
While we were looking around out here, we noticed a fiery-red ox-yoke hanging in the part of the east wall open on to the chopping block space near the kitchen door. Pierce told us Porter had secured it, and had it decorated. The intention was to hang it over the main door, at the peak of the roof. It showed the "Characteristic curve" of the parabola in its wavy form. Pierce remarked that "it had a badly turned down edge."
SATURDAY AUGUST 16th 1930.
This morning there were quite a few before us on the grounds, amongst them a few young local hams. Introductions all around followed, then the big parade began. The first of importance to arrive was Governor, or perhaps I should say Ex-Governor Hartness, of Vermont in general, and Springfield in particular. Felt quite honored in making his acquaintance, as his telescope is quite famous for its unique mounting.
Close on the heels of Hartness followed Ingalls, whom I recognized immediately, and introducing myself, modestly, as usual (Siam: - who threw that?) introduced the rest of our part. It was not long until Porter himself arrived, accompanied by one of the General Electric men. Soon Everest of Honeycomb fame put in an appearance, heralded by his Orange and Green reflector.
Everest's instrument is quite well known at these conventions, as it has been here before. It is an 8" outfit, about 64" focal length, in a fibre tube, painted brilliant orange. It is mounted in the closed yoke, the bottom of which rotates on two friction plates, the tension of which can be regulated with a wing nut. This forms the polar bearing and friction clamp.
It was growing well on to noon now, so we all journeyed down to the hotel and had dinner. After dinner the program was to meet in the hotel lobby at 1:30. This we did, all of us receiving tags for identification, two of which are herewith attached, one represents the delegate who traveled the farthest, and one myself.
Saturday. August 16th, 1930.
1 P.M. Meet in hotel lobby
1:30 Jones and Lamson Shops, Silvering and Lens Making
3:00 Governor Hartness' Underground Observatory inspected
4:00 Meet at Stellafane
6:00 Supper at Stellafane, followed by talk by Russell Porter
It did not take the crowd long to gather, so we all got into the machines available, and drove down to the Jones & Lamson machine shop, just down the Black River. Here we were conducted into the Lens grinding and polishing department, under the supervision of Donald Patch. Mr. Patch was on hand to demonstrate gang lens grinding and polishing, having a vertical spindle set up, with tool attached, and about 7 lenses each 1" to 1 1/4" diameter cemented to another tool. He showed how the thing was done.
There were on exhibition a number of eyepieces of different size, some of them very low power. Patch makes the J & L 1" eyepiece here, retail price $12.50, which Pierce says is the best he had ever seen, anywhere. They are used here in their comparator, an invention of Gov. Hartness. It is used to test the pitch and accuracy of screw threads by inserting the screw to be tested in the path of a light beam then catching the shadow cast by it in a microscope, which reflects the shadow from a mirror to a ground glass screen in front of the user's eye, upon which screen is marked a comparison thread. The image of the screw is enlarged 50 times, and it must not vary very much from the standard marked on the ground glass.
After the lens grinding demonstration, and the screw comparator demonstration, we were guided through the factory to the silvering room where Don Patch does so much of his work. He must silver hundreds of mirrors here for use in the comparators, each of them about 3" diameter. He uses the Brashear process, exclusively.
After it had cleared up again, we all piled back into the machines, and drove up the hill to Governor Hartness' place. He has a fine residence, with a very spacious well-kept lawn. We did not go into the house at all, but entered through an underground passage through a series of underground rooms, consisting of library, living rooms, various passageways etc. emerging finally into the piece-de-resistance. It consisted of his unique concrete dome and revolving turret, housing a 10" refractor, the cone of whose rays are caught by a 2¾" prism nd conducted into the heated observing chamber. The observer sits on a chair, and by using three levers controls the movement of the telescope. It is of course motor driven. The cost of the instrument and mounting, with dome, was $20,000.00. He must have spent more than that amount on excavation and concrete work for his underground chambers.
From the Governors, we all went up to Stellafane again. --- After wandering around and conversing with different individuals, we bought our supper tickets, and it was not long before the alarm sounded. Giving your ticket to the doorman, you were presented with a knife fork and spoon, wrapped in a napkin of paper, passing through the North door you were expected o take a plate off the pile on the table, pass to the first Lady-in-Waiting where a big spoonful of mashed potatoes were plopped on to your plate; the next Diane skilfully (sic) excavated a crater in your potatoes and left a big spoonful of gravy in the cavity. Next in line came your choice of meats, cold Roast Pork or Ham. Then came a fruit salad, rolls, butter, ear of roast corn, coffee, choice of three kinds of pie, and several kinds of cake. In all a very good meal.
After supper was over; we browsed around for a while, until the call came for Porter's talk.
We all assembled in front of the cabin, under the big awning, and Porter began to speak, after being introduced by Pierce. Pierce mentioned that Porter was born and raised in Springfield, that some years ago he left on his exploring expeditions and was absent for some time. Then, about 11 years ago, he returned to Springfield, and was followed by Pierce about 5 years later. They both got together on the making of mirrors, and Pierce says that Porter tried for an hour one night to show Pierce the shadows on a mirror. It seems that he finally succeeded, gloriously, for Pierce has had time to do nothing much since but look at them, and tell others what he sees.
Anyhow, around these two men, the Springfield Telescope Makers grew. Porter made his garden telescopes, and interested new blood in his hobby. The hobby stuck, the gang grew, and found a necessity to establish a permanent home. Porter donated the ground, the members assembled the material from various sources and with their own hands entirely, erected the present building. Porter was the brick layer, all hands joined in the carpentry. The inscription of the eaves of the building on the North side, was laid out by Porter and carved by one of the members, now deceased.
Porter's talk was mainly about the 200" telescope to be erected in California. He stated that he had been called to California to assist in the designing of the Machine and Optical shops to be required in connection with the instrument, and to that end was enrolled with the faculty of the University of California as teacher of Architecture, even though he never conducts a class.
The evening was spent in going from one telescope to the next, trying to get a look. Everests was by far the best on the lot, and therefore the most popular. It was possible by waiting in line to get a good look, and it was well worth the waiting. I have never seen better definition anywhere on a mirror. The stars in the clusters were brilliant, to say the least, and shone with a powerful glow.
Total cost for the trip from Pittsburgh PA to Stellafane including transportation, food, and lodging, from August 13th to 19th: $55.26.
Continuing the spirit of the detailed record of his Stellafane convention visit, he entered day by day accounts in his journal starting on September 8, 1930. For example:
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 8 1930
Started Bud drawing the construction plans for the dome. Worked on same until 1 P.M.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 9 1930.
In evening out to Bud's again continue on plans for dome. Worked on same until 12:45 PM.
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 10 1930.
Bud and I met Ambrose in Bellevue and went directly to Bud's house, where we three worked on plans for dome until 11 PM.
Friday Evening Sept 19 1930.
Roe came up this evening, and met me at Bud's house, and there we completed inking in the last drawing for the Dome. …
September 22nd 1930.
This evening Bud and I worked on the Floor Joists, completing same. Larry assisted in boring holes for hold down bolts. Completed same and cemented in. Welder completed Dome Base. Bud and I assembled Rollers on base, and all assisted in setting on track. Tried out and base revolves freely.
SEPTEMBER 24th 1930.
Worked last night, Bud White and I, on the construction of the Plate and track support, completing side walls, rough framing.
Regis and I spent about 5 hours during the day, laying the flooring over the rough 2x4's, and sawing out the studding for the walls. Nailed three walls together, and erected them. As mentioned, Bud and I completed the fourth wall, and the track support, as well as the intermediate bracing between studding. …
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 27th 1930.
After lunch, Bud, Roe and Donaldson came out, and we erected the sheeting on outside walls, and covered joints with 2" strips. Cut two window sills, Bud hung Door, and put finish boards around outside.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 4 1930.
… Mr. Johnson of the Aluminum Company of America was out and gave me price of about $75.00 on the sheet aluminum required to complete the Dome. He also suggested he would bring a practical man along from the company to have a talk with me about the method of joining the gores, substituting standing seams for the rivited (sic) joints.
OCTOBER 9 1930.
Mr. Johnson of the Aluminum Co, of America came out tonight, as per schedule, bringing with him a James Somma, practical metal worker for the Company. We conferred on the thickness and suitability of different tempers of metal and finally decided that #20 Gauge, half hard, could be worked properly for our purpose.
When it came to the method of joining the sheets of Aluminum I was convinced by the men that it would be a mistake to rivit (sic) the sheets together as we had planned, as the coefficient of expansion of aluminum is so great it would cause the rivets in time to become loose in the holes through the sheets. The expansion of aluminum sheets was given to be approximately 1/4" in 100". This is quite large, so Mr. Somma thought it best to do the job using a double turn down seam. He did not think we would have any great difficulty in working the metal and offered to come out some Saturday and give us a start.
Placed the order with Mr. Johnson for the requirements, which amount to about 415 Sq. Ft. of metal, including waste, total weight about 178#, at a cost of .353 per Lb. Net $66.01.
October 20 1930.
Aluminum arrived today. Larry and I uncrated and carried out. Laid sheets on Pool Table at Van Buren, and laid out first measurements. 1 hr.
Tuesday October 21 1930.
Checked measurements finding error in same. Rechecked after correction, and cut out first sheet. Laid out boards for form for bending sheets to curvature of roof. 1 hr.
MONDAY OCTOBER 27 1930.
Bud completed bending of last sheet of Aluminum.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 8 1930.
Larry and I went out to Van Buren in the morning and put on another sheet, making all told 11 sheets: spending 1 1/2 hr on same.
In the afternoon Roe came out and worked about 3 1/2 hr, Larry and I put in the same amount of time, while Bud put in about 1 hr, having had visitors from out of town arrive. We installed the last sheet, making photographs of the same. I sat on top of the completed dome to test its rigidity and found it sufficiently strong for our purpose. (This was impressive since there was no internal frame of any kind. The gores were secured together with an external double-turned seam.)
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 15 1930.
Bud raised the track while Larry and I installed the covers on the slit. When all was ready we cleared out the dome, and Larry and I, Bud, Donaldson, Marshall, Baslage, Pius, Norman lifted the dome from the ground and carried it up, placing it on the dome (roof?) in position. It fit without difficulty, and rolled easily. Due to the wood on the roof warping, it rubbed at two places, but these were readily beaten down with a mallet to allow it to pass.
The total cost for the observatory less dome was $250, and for the dome $178. With finishing touches yet to be completed, dedication day was set for the following Sunday. Invitations had been sent out to friends, relatives and Dr. Frank Jordan, director of the Allegheny Observatory and John W. Fecker, professional telescope maker.
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23rd 1930.
The crowd arrived gradually and by 3 P.M. we had quite an assemblage, numbering about 50 relatives and 20 friends. … The Roes were out, and gave quite a bit of help towards keeping the thing going until the arrival of Dr. Jordan, of Allegheny Observatory, which did not materialize. Neither did we have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Fecker or his good wife.
About 3:30 it was deemed advisable to conduct the simple program without further delay, so after Roe said a few words of introduction, and after the reporters of the Sun-Telegraph and Post-Gazette had gone from the dome, the crowd assembled in front of the steps, and the writer gave a short talk on the aims and purpose of the society, and the necessity for the dome.
The newly completed observatory was named the Valley View Observatory. It stood until August, 1997 when it was torn down, but the historic dome was saved and as of October, 1999, it was planned to place it atop a new Valley View Observatory operated by the Amateur Astronomers' Association of Pittsburgh.
Leo Scanlon repeated the meticulous account of his trip to the 1930 convention for the 1937 convention. This time his companions were his brother, Larry, Frank W. Surovec, and Charles G. Frost, traveling in two machines, a Plymouth coupe and a Model A Ford coupe. En route to Springfield, Vermont they stopped to see Wally Everest at his home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
We spent some hours in Everest's cellar workshop and there saw his 20" which was partly polished. It was claimed to have a regular figure, though the work was being done with small size tools. We saw some 12" laps on the work bench, and Wally showed us the washers he had used to face a 12" disc of glass for grinding in the 20" disc.
We also saw here one of F.R.A. Ellison's mirrors, 10" in size, under the KE test. It was refreshing to see a mirror by one of the masters, and to realize that ours were quite as good. Of course this was not one of Ellison's late efforts and no one can state that it had not been retouched by a sacriligeous (sic) hand, but it distinctly had a zone where the crest of the parabola should be.
Everest also showed us some photographic lenses which he was correcting for spherical aberration to use as telescopes, and his method of testing them with a Ronchi grating. Also over his workbench we saw the great Megametrus mentioned in the Royal Order of Telescope Makers by-laws. As well did we see Rufus, the mascot of the Stanley Club. Rufus is a cast iron (or aluminum) monkey clutching a refractor tube in his fore and hide feet, assisted by his tail. What he is gazing at, no one ever knew. He clutches in one simian paw, well tucked under his elbow (or is it knee) the best telescope mirror east of the Berkshires (which includes Boston). At the objective end of the telescope through which Rufus intelligently (matter of relativity) gazes there is perched a cukoo (sic), national bird of the Telescope Nut fraternity.
Rufus was to have an adventurous career shortly which his sedate look might belie. When Everest took him to the convention next day, he was "borrowed" by the boys from New York, where next we were to see him.
From Scanlon's journal the following convention notes are extracted.
We had already been greeted by Porter, dressed in his Whites, on the path up to the club house, and inside we found Ingalls lounging in a chair. After greetings and introductions all around we settled down to enjoying ourselves. Looked again at the familiar sights around the club house walls. There were the same numerous pencil sketches by Porter of the original members of the Springfield group, including Wally Everest and A. G. Ingalls. Oscar Marshall, one of the men whom we met on my first trip up here, had returned this year with Mr. Porter, and it was nice to exchange handshakes with this sturdy new-englander. To me he is a typical Vermonter. …
During the day the delegations arrived constantly; particularly welcome to me were the groups from Boston and New York, where we planned to visit. There was also a group from Philadelphia, including Dr. Stokley. The one man from Philadelphia who made us more welcome than any other was Bailey. From New York we met for the first time Lou Lojas, Ed Hanna, Bob Clyde and some others whose name (sic) escapes me. Oh yes, that guy Cox, with his ever present camera and flash bulb.
There were many fine telescopes on display throughout the day, the ones of particular interest being the Hempstead Hydrant, made by McCarthey of Long Island: there was a 6" reflector on a fine bronze mounting … There was also on display a 13" Cassegrain of short focus, clumsily put together with haywire and match sticks. I did not find how it worked, failing to get a look through it. …
There was a fine 2 1/2" refractor immediately in front of the clubhouse; also a white-enameled Springfield telescope embodying two of my devices, namely the Mae West eyepiece socket, and the counterweight cone attached to the tube of the telescope. …
The meal of the evening was prepared on the mountain top, and consisted of Pork and Beams baked in the old fashioned way by that famous Chef of the telescope makers, Redfield. The beans were in pots buried in a hole in the ground all day, which had been previously heated with fires. The meal was served to about 200 in a large tent at the rear of the clubhouse, at three long tables. It was delicious right down to the home-made apple pie, for which we had difficulty in finding room after the generous meal, served by passing around large platters.
After the supper, and after we had all quieted down on the slope in front of the clubhouse, the meeting was called to order by John Pierce who acted as toastmaster for the speakers who were to follow. They consisted of representatives of the different amateur groups present. The man who journeyed the farthers (sic) for the trip was undoubtedly Stoy of Atlanta, Ga. Of course Porter and Marshall came from California, but they belong here and can hardly be still considered as amateurs attending a convention. They WERE the convention.
Prof. Stokley and Stewart of Franklin Institute spoke about the Eclipse of June 8th, which they witnessed from a freighter out near the mid-point in the Pacific ocean. Avila of Boston spoke, as did an amateur from (the) Philadelpha group, Lojas of New York, Everest, Marshall of Springfield, Taylor of Williamatic, Ingalls of Sciam, myself and others. The final speaker, of course, was Porter, who told of progress on the 200" telescope, and showed colored and black and white movies of the shipment of the 200" disc, its reception in California, and its progress in the optical shops down there. He showed also movies of the grinding of the track on which the 200" dome will revolve, and showed the steel construction of the base of the dome as completed.
After leaving the convention Scanlon and friends drove to Boston for a visit with amateurs and then continued on the New York to see the headquarters of the amateur telescope makers at the Hayden Planetarium.
The Amateur workshop in the Hayden Planetarium is located in the basement. They have a nicely air-conditioned room, which was a welcome relief from the oppressive heat outside. We took off our coats, and inspected some of the work in progress on the various oil barrels filled with water to act as individual grinding piers for the different workers.
It was a pleasure to see Stoy of Atlanta in the workshop. He had gone up to Stellafane with Lojas, at the instigation of Ingalls who made the arrangement, and so of course, he came back to New York with the NY party. He brought up the question of the twinkler eyepiece, so I presented him with mine to take to his friends in the south for their initiation.
Scanlon had a sense of humor and a penchant for having some fun with one's serious hobby. The twinkler eyepiece contained a tiny amount of radioactive material at the focus and when one looked into it in the dark points of light could be seen. The joke came when it was used to show some unsuspecting guest the stars even when it was cloudy.
After the order came to close up for the night (about 10 PM) we amateurs who were left in the planetarium, after vainly endeavoring to swipe "Rufus" the Pittsfield mascot (who was being closely watched by Cox and Seely) we walked down to The Griddle, several blocks away, where we stowed away hot cakes, ice cream, pie, or whatever fancy dictated. Some of the boys had Hamburger steak and mashed potatoes, ice cream, and so forth. …
(The following day) we walked down to 40th st., and going to the Scientific American building at 24 W. 40th st., rode up to the 2nd floor, inquiring for Ingalls's office. He was in, so we went in and exchanged experiences for about an hour. He spoke of the magazine, its future, queried me as the future of the ATM movement and whether or not it would die a natural death or go on growing for the next ten years, wondered whether it could be made a full size job profitably, or whether it would leave him out on a limb. …
The following day, Thursday, August 19, the party continued on to Plainfield, New Jersey where they stopped to visit the famous Mogey telescope plant.
The plant itself is not an imposing structure. It is located in the rear of what was formerly the Mogey residence for many years; the residence is now across the town. The elder Mr. Mogey no longer takes an active part in the business, which is under the direction of the three sons, William, Halley, and another whose name I did not ascertain. The three boys are look-alikes, and are rather quite. The eldest of the three, William I believe it is, was quite nervous, I suppose as the result of too close application to his work.
We were greeted at the entrance to the workshop (I cannot any longer think of it as a factory) by our old friend Lou Lojas, of the New York group, who had been working with the Mogeys for some months now, having given up a job with a New York Newspaper, much to the disgust of his Irish wife. Since it was about 11:30 when we arrived, Lojas quit work for the duration of our visit, and after introductions all around, we began our inspection of this famous but unprepossessing place.
Halley Mogey was polishing a 6" refractor blank on a vertical post cemented into the floor. There was a flange screwed to the top of the post (which was probably of 2" pipe) and there was a well-rouged towel nearby upon which he dried his hands occasionally. At another part of the workshop (upstairs in the Machine shop) we saw the tube and mounting for this telescope, and a very fine first-class piece of work it was, too. Despite the unkempt appearance of the workshop, their work is of high quality. The machining equipment available in this ramshackle building is mostly of ancient vintage: I did not notice any new machinery. Everything seems to be just as old Mogey left it years ago. There were lots of pieces of junk scattered about, and Lojas had assembled about half a dozen discarded mountings which he was going to purchase for use by the New York boys.
Downstairs on the first floor, there was a polishing room which was the first one we entered, right off the drive way which is of unpaved rubble construction. …
There was a small neon light-box in this room for testing flats and companion surfaces by interference, but this equipment was crude compared to my own at Valley View.
It was inspiring to learn that with equipment no finer than we have available in our home workshops they were able to produce work that was so much finer and had a really finished appearance, that I resolved the next telescope I should build or direct would be a really fine instrument, equaling or exceeding if possible the workmanship of the 7" Cassegrain telescope which we were toting around the country.
Next Chapter: Stellafane Decline and Renaissance 1937 - 1989
Prior Chapter: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God 1921-1928
Back to Introduction