American Artifacts
19th Century American Microscope Makers
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Charles A. Spencer - Microscope Maker

Charles A. Spencer is known as America's first microscope maker. He was born in 1813, in Madison county, NY, in what would later become Canastota. In 1838, he had an ad printed, announcing himself to be a maker of microscopes and telescopes, including Dr. Goring's Engiscope (a reflecting microscope similar to Amici's). By 1840, he published a catalog listing numerous microscopes, reflecting telescopes, and other instruments. Spencer is thought to have made the first American achromatic objective, and, by the late 1840's had acquired a reputation for his excellent quality objectives of great angle of aperture. In 1854, Spencer was joined in business by E.K. Eaton. Several catalogs are known published under the name "Spencer & Eaton. Microscopes made by Spencer in the 1840's, signed "C.A. & H. Spencer refer to Charles' cousin, Hamilton, not his son, Herbert. Herbert R. Spencer worked in his father's shop and became a partner after Eaton left the business, around 1865. Until 1875, the instruments were marked "C.A. Spencer & Sons, Canastota". In 1875, the Spencers moved to Geneva, NY, to build microscopes for the Geneva Optical Co. During the next three years, their instruments were marked, "C.A. Spencer & Sons for Geneva Optical Company". In 1877, this association was terminated and their stands were marked, "C.A. Spencer & Sons, Geneva. Charles A. Spencer died in 1881.


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Student Microscope, ca. 1855

19th century journal reprints

A Compound Achromatic Microscope made by Charles A. Spencer, of Canastota
By C.R. Gilman, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics in the college of Physicians and Surgeons, NY

A letter from Prof Bailey to The American Journal of Science
An 1847 testimonial to the excellence of Spencer's microscope.

Charles A. Spencer
The American Journal of Microscopy, 1876

Charles Spencer's 1872 Price-List of Microscopes
From The Microscope & Microscopical Technology, Heinrich Frey, 1880 American edition.

other microscope makers

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