Holcomb Reflecting Telescope

Amasa Holcomb (1787-1875) was a self-taught astronomer, surveyor and photographer, and the first American to make telescopes for sale. In 1833, the American Journal of Science reported that he "manufactures spy glasses of every description now in use; also achromatic telescopes of forty eight inches focal length” and "reflecting telescopes of from eight to twelve feet focal length." The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia reported that Holcomb’s reflecting telescopes compared favorably with instruments imported from Europe at much greater cost.
This may be the larger of the two Holcomb instruments that were examined by a committee of the Franklin Institute on May 4, 1835, and that led to the recommendation that Holcomb be awarded the Scott's premium. It has an 8-inch mirror made of speculum metal, a sheet metal tube, and a Newtonian mount. It remained in the attic of the family home in Southwick, Mass., until 1933, when a descendant of the maker offered it to the Smithsonian.
Ref: Robert P. Multhauf, ed., "Holcomb, Fitz, and Peate: Three 19th Century American Telescope Makers," United States National Museum Bulletin 228 (1962), pp. 160-164.
"Manufacture of Telescopes, &c.," American Journal of Science 23 (1833): 403.
"Report on Amasa Holcomb's Reflecting Telescope," Journal of the Franklin Institute 14 (1834): 169-172.
"Report on Holcomb's Reflecting Telescopes," Journal of the Franklin Institute 16 (1835): 11-13.
"Report on Mr. Amasa Holcomb's Reflecting Telescope," Journal of the Franklin Institute 18 (1836): 109-110, and 312.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telescope, reflecting
date made
ca 1835
Holcomb, Amasa
overall: 112 in x 8 1/2 in; 284.48 cm x 21.59 cm
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Southwick
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Grace Holcomb Steere
Additional Media

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