The “Great Lensnapping” By Guest Host: James Mullaney

Roger, I don’t know how many of your readers have heard of the “Great Lensnapping” that happened at the original Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s.  

My beloved 13-inch Fitz-Clark had it’s objective lens stolen and held for ransom.  At the time, it was the third largest in the world!  (Now it’s the third largest in the current Observatory.)   

Samuel Pierpont Langley was director at the time and refused to pay anything, as no telescope in the country would then be safe from theft.  He finally met the thief at a hotel in a Pittsburgh suburb – the thief agreed to return it if Langley didn’t prosecute.  He subsequently found it in a waste basket at that very hotel.  

The lens was pretty well scratched up and Langley sent it to Alvin Clark for refinishing.  Thus the dual name Fitz-Clark.  As I’ve stated before, it is without question the finest visual telescope I’ve ever seen or used bar none!

 

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