Porter Garden Telescopes
November 22, 2007 4:19 PM   Subscribe

In addition to his work on the design of the 200-inch Hale telescope, amateur astronomer Russell W. Porter (1871-1949) designed and produced a remarkable, bronze-cast garden telescope in the 1920s. Fewer than 60 of these unusual Newtonian reflectors were ever made, and they're even harder to find now: earlier this year, one went for $18,000 at auction. But a reproduction of the Porter Garden Telescope is now available, for a mere $59,000 (it's cast bronze on a marble pedestal); a local cable station has a profile of the people behind it. Via Sky and Telescope.
posted by mcwetboy (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
That's a lovely machine right out of Jules Verne.
posted by jouke at 6:18 PM on November 22, 2007

$18K for the original vs $59K for the repro, eh? SIGN ME UP!
posted by jonson at 6:25 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

The repro is very pretty highway robbery. I'd love to have one in my manicured victorian gardens of course.
posted by Skorgu at 6:36 PM on November 22, 2007

Porter was really a pretty interesting guy. In addition to designing telescopes he was also a painter and arctic explorer. I think that he spent a couple years on the ice around Greenland or some such thing.

He bought this little peninsula of land near the small town of Port Clyde, ME and named it Land's End. He lived in this beautiful farmhouse that was built in the early 1800s and also built these amazing cottages for his hunting buddies as well as a small stone castle (now inhabited by the relatively famous artist Greg Mort.) At the end of the point is Marshall Point Light, which was the lighthouse that Forest Gump ran to in the movie. Inside the lighthouse is a museum dedicated to the history of the town as well as to Porter.

On the property of the farmhouse, is this little rock circle where I know Porter kept a telescope he made. It may well have been this one.

As I understand it, when Porter died he left everything to his daughter Caroline, who was sort of crazy. She sold the castle and the farmhouse and all of the rest of the property on the point except for one acre, on which she put an ugly manufactured home. According to some people in town, for the last years of her life she had the general store deliver her vodka and cigarettes on a weekly basis, but she never really left the place.
posted by ecab at 7:03 PM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you are interested in these, I can make one for you. Half price if you mention the internet.

Sir Patrick Moore of the BBC's popular "The Sky at Night" has nicknamed our garden telescope "Capella", for one of the brightest stars in the sky.

...because that's all you'll be able to see with such a tiny mirror with no shroud in your backyard.
posted by DU at 7:04 PM on November 22, 2007

A six-inch mirror isn't exactly tiny; there are plenty of telescopes out there with similar specs. As for the shroud, I wonder how many truss-tube Dobs are used without one. Even so, I can't imagine that a garden telescope was ever designed with serious observation in mind: it's a gimmick, though a damned elegant one.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:17 PM on November 22, 2007

I'll install it next to my folly.
posted by dhartung at 4:38 AM on November 23, 2007

That's a lovely machine right out of Jules Verne.
...or Myst.
posted by rocket88 at 7:18 AM on November 23, 2007

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