The early history page covers all of the history from the beginning of our club through the purchase of Stellafane East in 1987. See the Modern History page for history from 1987 through the present day.
This article gives a an account of early history of Stellafane through the 1930's.
Read this 1923 article by Porter, which includes many historic photos.
This detailed history by club historian Bert Willard consists of four book-length chapters, and provides a comprehensive exposition of the club's history. It does a great job in describing the learn years for the club during and after World War II, and a chapter devoted to the Maksutov Club of the 1950's, which is material that is not currently covered by our other history articles. Since Bert has been an active club member since 1953, many of his accounts are first hand.
Stellafane's symbol, the "Little Man" (shown at upper left in most of the Stellafane Web pages), first appeared during the convention on Friday, August 15, 1930. Unfortunately, not much is known of it's creation and/or creator (most likely NOT Russell Porter). What little we do know comes from a report written by a conventioneer named Leo Scanlon. Read his report on the "Little Man" below:
"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 vice 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."
The name Stellafane, originally stellar-fane, is Latin for "shrine to the stars" and was adopted by Russell Porter when the clubhouse was constructed in 1923. It officially refers to only the building but, over the years, has commonly been used to refer to the convention. To avoid confusion, the building was given the unofficial nick-name "The Pink-Clubhouse" for obvious reasons.
Why a "pink" clubhouse? Two stories are told on that subject. The first is that, due to lack of funds upon the completion of the construction of the clubhouse, the club asked a local hardware store owner for a donation of paint. The proprietor agreed so long that he could choose the color which turned out to be "Stellafane Pink" and it's been kept that color ever since. The second is that Russell Porter requested that the clubhouse be painted "spruce-gum pink" which is white with just a tint of pink. Upon his next arrival on the hill he found that the member's misunderstood his request and painted the clubhouse the hot "Stellafane pink" that we see today. Again, thanks to tradition it's still that color today. It's not known which, if either, story is true. Bert Willard, Springfield Telescope Makers Historian
See also the section below: Observatories & Major Buildings
Russell Porter founded the Springfield Telescope Makers. Earlier, he was navigator on several arctic expeditions, and then spent time founding an artists colony in Port Clyde, Maine.. Later, he was recruited by Hale and joined the 200-inch telescope project at Palomar.
This link takes you to the National Archives web site and a 1997 article about the sketches, many of which are in the National Archive collections.
This 9 page well illustrated document provides insight into Russell Porter's time in Port Clyde, Maine, where he settled after his artic explorations and before returning to Springfield, Vermont and founding Stellafane. A 9-page pdf document written by Kamissa A. Mort, who grew up summering in Land’s End (Porter's development in Port Clyde).
Porter always seemed to be sketching something, and in this 1936 illustration he created a Rube Goldberg style mirror grinding machine, with a napping amateur providing biometric timing control via heartbeat and breathing.
This book, edited by Paul N. Hasluck and published by Cassell and Company in London, 1899, was the book Porter used to teach himself telescope mirror making in Port Clyde. It is available for reading, free, online, by clicking the link.
A Hand Tinted Photo of 2 Hill Place, Springfield, Vermont (photo at right). This was the home of Russell W. Porter between 1919, when he was hired by James Hartness to develop the optical comparator into a marketable product, and 1929, when he was hired by George Hale to work on the 200-inch telescope project.
This article by Oscar Marshall was written as Porter was leaving for Caltech to work on the 200-inch telescope.
Porter made these amazingly detailed 3-D drawings of the 200-inch telescope on Mt. Palomar from 2-D blueprints before the telescope was built!
This 1948 film documents the development of the 200-inch Hale Telescope and Palomar Observatory. Russell Porter shown at his drawing board at Caltech and demonstrating how the telescope works on a 100:1 scale model starting at 10:51 in the film. There is also a glimpse of him in the distance in a machine shop shot at 13:13.
Porter was the fourth person hired by Edmund Ellery Hale for the Palomar project, and he worked on this project the rest of his life.
Clicking this link will open a window on You Tube
This article by club historian Bert Willard chronicles his visit with Russell Porter's daughter.
The University of Arizona's Mirror Lab has fabricated some of the largest professional telescope mirrors ever made. Hanging next to the main entrance is a photo of Russell Porter, and reproductions of Porter's drawings of the 200-inch Palomar telescope are hung along the adjacent stairway. It's nice to see Porter recognized this way for his pioneering work in telescope mirror making.
The photo at right was taken in October 2011 during a tour of the lab given to the Antique Telescope Society. Society president Ken Launie is shown in this photo by John Briggs.
Preceding the first convention, this mid-June gathering was its forerunner. We have several photos and an article from the Springfield Reporter to document this event.
Excerpts from the report by Albert G. Ingalls in the September 1926 Scientific American of the first convention.
by Leo Scanlon, edited by Bert Willard
Jim Beaty describes his first Stellafane Convention (1966).
A collection of material from all previous conventions that we have available, the bulk being convention programs from 1954 to present, but there are a few other items from earlier conventions available also.
Including many photos from the Stellafane Archives, and some contributed photos, this collection covers the years 1926 though 1999. After 1999, convention photos can be found on the Convention Web Pages.
Our listing of winners of the telescope competition at convention over the years.
On December 20, 1989, the approximately 3.5 acre site on the summit of Breezy Hill, including the Stellafane Clubhouse and Porter Turret Telescope, were listed as a National Historic Landmark.
The Stellafane Clubhouse built in 1924, is notable in that it includes a Polar Cassegrain Telescope, Transit Telescope, Solar Telescope and South Wall Sundial. All of the instruments except the Transit Telescope are still operational. It also attracts attention because of its unique pink color. There are three rooms on the first floor: The fireplaced meeting room, the kitchen, and a workshop (which is now used as a kitchen extension). Upstairs, reached by a retractable stairway, are two rooms, originally used as bunkrooms, and now used for storage. Club meetings are still held here, except when snow prevents access in the winter months.
Read this 1927 article by Russell Porter in Popular Astronomy (PDF). The article describes the clubhouse, it's facilities and telescopes. "The establishment [clubhouse] is now completed...", "...securely anchored to the rock with steel cables.", "Electric lights were installed this year." and 'Stellafane has already had two conventions... In fact our conventions act very much like a clearing house for ideas relating to reflecting telescopes".
This article describes the Porter Sundial on the south wall of the Stellafane Clubhouse, and includes some very nice photographs of the instrument on a bright, sunny day.
This unique 12-inch f/17 equatorial turret telescope is part of the Stellafane Observatory National Historic Landmark. Read about it's history, and see how we use it today:
In November 1982 loggers were hired to remove the forest that came right up to the back of the Stellafane clubhouse. This page has before and after pictures, and as a bonus, a photo of what was on Breezy Hill before Stellafane was built.
In the early 1970's the tradition of the Bean Hole beans was revived for awhile. Accounts of both the original 1934 Beans, and the 1970's revival with photographs are on this page.
Walt Wheeler, Carl Breuning and Walter Scott Houston enjoy some refreshment and conversation in the clubhouse kitchen on a March weekend in 1973. While most people experience Stellafane during convention, members spend a lot of time on the site working together to maintain the land, the buildings and equipment - and even observing if the Vermont weather allows. Shared work and quiet times like this build life-long friendships and a real sense of belonging.
In 1975 we opened the Hartness - Porter Museum of Amateur Telescope Making in the underground rooms at the Hartness House Inn. Many items on display are shown in pictures in this virtual museum tour.
This article by club historian Bert Willard reviews the history and use of the Hartness Turret Telescope on the one hundredth anniversary of its completion in 2010.
This article by James Hartness in the Journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (v 33:2, 1911) describes his invention and implementation of this type of telescope. Plenty of photos and drawings should you want to build your own! PDF, 30 pages, 5Mb.
This article by Jim Daley describes the restoration efforts of the Springfield Telescope Makers to keep the Hartness Equatorial Turret Refractor in good operating condition.
Maintenance and improvement work continues to be done to this fine instrument. In this well isllustrated article by Dave Groski, he describes work done in the fall of 2012 and describes the plans for 2013.
This link will take to you the Hartness House web site, where they have a nice history of Governor James Hartness, his mansion, his underground workshop and offices (where our museum is now located) and the Hartness 10-inch equatorial turret refractor.
A watercolor painting of the Porter Garden Telescope is missing from Stellafane. Please help us locate it.