R. & J. Beck began in business as such in 1865, won an award at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and established an American branch in Philadelphia in 1877. This shop was opened by William H. Walmsley, the former head of the optical department of J. W. Queen & Co. Williams, Brown & Earle was running it by 1891.
Beck explained in 1882 that “perfection without regard to cost” had long been their aim. But, with the recent popularization of microscopy, “there has arisen a demand for cheap instruments”—a demand “that has been mainly filled by literally worthless articles of French manufacture.” In this situation, Beck was offering several models that were “thoroughly well-made and reliable” and yet inexpensive.
This is an example of the Scholar’s Microscope that could be had for $25. It is a compound monocular with micrometer screw, circular stage, inclination joint, sub-stage mirror, and tri-leg base. The inscription on one leg reads “R. & J. BECK / LONDON / 11872.” That on another reads “W. H. WALMSLEY & CO. / PHILADELPHIA / SOLE AMERICAN AGENTS.”
Ref: R. & J. Beck, Illustrated Price List of Microscopes, Microscopic Apparatus and Other Optical Instruments (Philadelphia, 1882), preface.
R. & J. Beck, Illustrated Price List of Microscopes, Microscopic Apparatus and Other Optical Instruments (Philadelphia, 1883), p. 66.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
R. & J. Beck
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
metal (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 24.8 cm x 14.3 cm x 12.7 cm; 9 3/4 in x 5 5/8 in x 5 in
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Scientific Instruments
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from the Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Education
Additional Media

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