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The 1926 Stellafane Convention

Our First Convention

The following excerpts are from the report by Albert G. Ingalls in the September, 1926 Scientific American:

"One most interesting aspect of the new movement [amateur telescope making] was the gathering of a group of invited T.N.s [telescope nuts] at Stellafane, Springfield, Vermont, over the weekend of the Fourth of July. Invitations were sent out by the "Telescope Makers of Springfield" (which, by the way, is an amateur, not a business organization) and nearly 30 enthusiasts from several states made the trip to Vermont in order to convene, rub elbows and talk telescope making with their confreres.

Postcard Invitation to the First Convention
Postcard Invitation to the First Convention

"Mutual introductions having been exchanged, the amateur visitors at Springfield were first initiated into the mysteries of silvering mirrors. This is an art which has long been regarded as secret. If such has ever been the case, the secret is now out, for Russell W. Porter, leading spirit of the "Telescope Makers of Springfield," demonstrated before the visitors that it could be done in about half an hour, providing the conditions were right. The visiting amateurs next inspected an apparatus for performing the knife-edge test by means of an electrically illuminated device invented by Mr. J. Watson Thompson, an attorney, of Cambridge, Maryland.

"Among the visitors at Springfield were three groups from various laboratories of the General Electric Company. These men were interested in telescope making on their own account. One man from the research department of the Navy came from Norfolk, Virginia. A number of interested young men camped out in a tent pitched near the conifers that partly surround Stellafane.

"Saturday, July 3, the entire party of telescope enthusiasts was transported to the top of the mountain on which the clubhouse-observatory known as Stellafane, is situated. Telescopes were in evidence everywhere and these were eagerly examined, tried out on terrestrial objects and criticized. Some of the visitors next opened bags and brought out parts of their own work - mirrors and newly devised apparatus for testing them; also samples of pitch and abrasives which had proved especially efficacious.

"Before dark the laureate cook of the "Telescope Makers of Springfield" announced supper. What a supper it was! Mr. Redfield is king of the kitchen at Stellafane. He, like the rest, has made his telescope. He also makes johnny cake and enjoys cooking for the rest of the members. On this occasion he fed 29 and fed them to utter completion. This number was greater than he had ever fed before at Stellafane. But, he remarked, whimsically, "when I get a little older I will probably do better. Supper over, the amateurs were confronted by the night, for plans had been laid to stay up, like the traditional astronomer, until daybreak. The stars came out in myriads.

"The following day, the Fourth of July, was given over to further discussion. John Pierce, one of the leading lights of the Springfield group, gave a talk on the making of small lenses while the visitors sat in the shade of a row of deep green spruce trees which formed the edge of the primeval forest that covers the top of the mountain.

"On the same afternoon the amateurs, tired and sleepy, but filled with many impressions about telescopes, optics, mirrors, prisms and no end of other similar things, made a tour about the village of Springfield, inspecting five telescopes which were mounted in the dooryards of their owners, instead of on the mountaintop at Stellafane."

Albert G. Ingalls
Scientific American
October 1926

Edited by Berton Willard
Springfield Telescope Makers
June 2000

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