R. & J. Beck introduced the Star microscope in the summer of 1885, explaining that it was designed “to combine thorough efficiency with great economy.” The Star won a gold medal at the International Inventions Exhibition held in London, and Beck’s American agent termed it “the most wonderful cheap instrument ever made.” And yet there was room for improvement. By 1891, having tinkered with the form, the firm announced that “we confidently believe that it is by far the best instrument ever offered at so moderate a price. The leading idea, in designing and constructing the ‘STAR,’ was to produce a microscope in which nothing should be sacrificed to mere looks, and in which the optical and mechanical qualities should be the very best.”
The Star is a compound monocular with coarse and fine focus, square stage, trunnion, sub-stage apertures, sub-stage mirror, and heavy triangular base. This example, which is of the improved form, probably belonged to Marvin Ashdowne Custis (1866-1956), an American physician turned business executive. The inscription reads “R. & J. BECK / LONDON / 16925.”
Ref: “The New Star Microscope,” American Monthly Microscopical Journal 5 (1885): 229.
Ad for “Beck’s New Model ‘Star’ Microscope” in Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 30 (1890).
R. & J. Beck, An Illustrated Catalogue of Microscopes and Accessories (Philadelphia, 1891), pp. 6-9.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1890
R. & J. Beck
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
brass (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 25.8 cm x 11 cm x 16.5 cm; 10 3/16 in x 4 5/16 in x 6 1/2 in
accessories box: 1 5/8 in x 2 7/8 in x 2 7/8 in; 4.1275 cm x 7.3025 cm x 7.3025 cm
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Miss E. P. Custis
Additional Media

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