Trippensee Planetarium

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The Laing Co., of Detroit, Mi., manufactured planetariums based on the patent (#578,108) issued to Alexander Laing in 1897. Frank Trippensee (a Laing employee) and his brothers bought the firm in 1905, and turned the simple string and pulley instrument into one that used a chain drive and gears. That form—for which Frank Trippenssee received patents in the United States (#881,875) and Canada in 1908—proved remarkably successful and remains in production to this day.
On this example a brass tag on the horizontal arm is marked: “THE TRIPPENSEE PLANETARIUM / PAT. U.S. MAR. 10, 08. CANADA JULY 21, 08 / THE TRIPPENSEE MFG CO. / DETROIT, MICH., U.S.A.” The base is brass as is the Sun. The Earth globe is covered with paper; the signature in the cartouche reads: “The / Trippensee / Mfg. Co. / Detroit, Mich.” Venus is a wooden ball painted black on one side and white on the other.
Ref: Barry J. Sobel, “The Story of the Orrery and the Trippensee Company,” Rittenhouse 15 (2001): 83-92.
Currently not on view
Trippensee Manufacturing Co.
place made
United States: Michigan, Detroit
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 34.6 cm x 18.4 cm x 50.2 cm; 13 5/8 in x 7 1/4 in x 19 3/4 in
overall, mounted: 14 in x 24 in x 10 in; 35.56 cm x 60.96 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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