Porter Garden Telescope

Porter Garden Telescope

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A skillful blending of art and science, the Porter Garden Telescope is a 6-inch f/4 Newtonian reflector cast in solid statuary bronze that can also serve as a sundial and as an elegant piece of domestic garden furniture. The slender blade of overlapping leaves holds the primary mirror, the prism, and the eyepiece in alignment. A bowl of lotus leaves embraces the mirror and a pair of cylindrical flowers forms the slow motion controls. The base is embellished with the names of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. When not in use, the optical elements could be removed and taken indoors.
Russell Porter, an Arctic explorer and Boston architect, designed the Garden Telescope. John A. Brashear provided the eyepieces and prisms. Wilbur Perry, an early member of Stellafane, figured the mirrors.
This example is marked "The Porter Garden Telescope built and sold by Jones & Lamson Machine Co. Springfield Vermont. -U-S-A- / No. 49 / US Patent 1468973 Sept. 25, 1923." Christian La Roche acquired it in the early 1930s and gave it to the Smithsonian in 1992.
The Garden Telescope has a split-ring equatorial mount. Porter developed this design in 1918 and later proposed it for the large telescope on Mt. Palomar. John Pierce, a member of the Springfield Telescope Makers, suggested "that the 200-inch mount as constructed is simply a glorified 'Garden Telescope,' with a lattice tube instead of the bar which supports the prism and ocular in the garden telescope."
We suspect that fewer than 100 Garden Telescopes were ever made. This commercial failure can be partially attributed to cost. With a price tag ranging from $400 to $500, it was beyond the means of most potential buyers.
Ref: John Tracy Spaight, "The Porter Garden Telescope," Rittenhouse 6 (1992): 97-102.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Porter Garden Telelescope (mount)
date made
after 1923-09-25
Jones & Lamson Machine Co.
Brashear, John A.
place made
United States: Vermont, Springfield
Physical Description
statuary bronze (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall: 88 cm x 31.5 cm x 31.7 cm; 34 21/32 in x 12 13/32 in x 12 15/32 in
overall: 28 in x 12 1/2 in x 24 in; 71.12 cm x 31.75 cm x 60.96 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Christian La Roche
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Mr. Porter is considered for many people the father of amateur telescope making for sharing knowledge and exploring new ideas. In the first year of its construction, using the sundial function, Mr. Porter was able to show to his neighbors a projection over a canvas of the solar eclipse of September 1923. "Any efforts toward the popularizing of the telescope would seem to be amply justified, and any improvements tending to simplify its use among amateurs as an astronomical instrument are, of course, to be desired." Reference: Popular Astronomy, Vol. 32, p.273-280. Year 1924. Please, if the PGT has been digitized with your program 3d.si.edu consider sharing it with a link.
"You can view an original Russell Porter Garden Telescope in the Stellaphane Telescope Museum which is housed in the basement and telescope area of the Hartness House Inn, Springfield, VT. The Inn managers give private tours for guests on Sunday afternoons. Best to call ahead."
"I am a member of the Springfield Telescope Makers, Inc. Stellaphane is mispelled, it is Stellafane and roughly translates to "Shrine to the Stars ". The museum at Hartness House Inn, is the "Porter Museum of Telescope Making " There is no evidence of more than 50 telescopes being made. Many were melted down for the WWII war effort. An accurate reproduction is available for about $43,000 at Telescopes of Vermont. Reference: Berton Willard, our historian [bertandsylviawillard@comcast.net] Paul"
In 2012 was rediscovered the #54, at least so far publicly known the highest number of the serie, in Longwood Gardens. "They found it under a staircase in a barn... No patina. Looks like it has never been out in the weather" Reference: Newsletter of the Mt. Cuba Astronomy Group (December 2012) "About a hundred instruments were sold" Reference: A brief autobiography by Russell W. Porter (Sky and Telescope Nº62, December 1946, Pag 13-23) Please, if the PGT has been digitized with your program 3d.si.edu consider sharing it with a link.

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