A 6 foot Dollond from 1820s

Note: This telescope was put up for Auction at Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers in Maryland on 27th October 2017, estimated at only $500! Here is the Auctioneers description:

detail corner scope“Dollond 4-inch Brass Refracting Telescope, London, c. 1825, Bywater & Co., 58-in. main tube, ocular collar engraved “Dollond London/Sold thru Bywater & Co. Liverpool,” mounting collar, and dual tapered column mount.

Provenance: Descended in the family of Captain Theodore Corner and used at Corner’s Wharf in Baltimore by the shipping firm James Corner & Son’s in the mid 19th century. Family research accompanies the lot.
Estimate $400-500″

The condition report was not as positive, as it suggested one unspecified lens was missing. Inevitably this explained the low estimate of value, and the scope sold for around the $400 suggested.


The original text for the Telescopecollector story was as follows:

Another interesting and traceable telescope has been described by a correspondent in Maryland, USA, who has just resurrected it from her brother’s basement after 30 years in storage. It is an approx 6 foot long Dollond, which fairly unusually can be dated to the 1820s, using the minimal supplier info engraved on the flange on the eyepiece end of the main barrel.


This is a composite image, the tubes are NOT bent!

The engraving on the telescope says “DOLLOND * LONDON”, at the top, in capitals, and then underneath it adds “Sold Thru Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers suggests John Bywater & Co was the trading name used by this firm between 1822 and 1831 only. They traded from premises at various addresses in Pool Lane, Liverpool, in this period, and also from 42 Seymour Street from 1825-27. Further, Clifton confirms that during this period he was known to have sold telescopes made by Dollond: this comment was not made in relation to previous or subsequent identities used by this firm. In 1831 the company became known as Bywater, Dawson & Co. So the telescope appears to date from the 1820s.

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This telescope belonged to the correspondent’s great-great-grandfather, Ted (or Theodore) Corner, born 1826, and one of ten children of Sarah and James Corner: Ted became a ship’s Captain in the company James Corner & Sons, who were trading from Baltimore in the 1840s through to the 1860s.

Telescope description

The main barrel is 5 feet long: the objective lens diameter is 4” (100mm). The single draw has a total length of 26”, and is approx. 1.625” diameter. This has another engraving, stating “Sold by Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. The second lens pair in the eyepiece tube is situated about 12-14” down the tube. These lenses are in a long cartridge, which itself is a tube around 4.5” long. This screws into the split joint in the single draw. The eyepiece unscrews from the near end of this draw and contains one lens, the second lens of this pair is mounted inside this tube. The telescope has been cleaned and assembled, but because of the size and weight (and the lack of a suitable ship and/or crew), it has not been possible to prove whether the assembled telescope functions correctly.


Around the main barrel there is a clamp ring, whose position looks to be adjustable, but would appear to be associated with a similar large screw hole in the barrel. The clamp ring and the hole in the barrel look to be adaptations for mounting the telescope on-board ship. The stand, consisting of two prongs, has a top plate, which attaches to this screw hole: it is presumed that the threaded pins at the bottom of the two prongs that make up the stand would attach to a wooden or other stanchion provided as a part of the ship structure. The mounting plate allows sideways rotational movement. A separate attachment point on the barrel is provided, presumably for a handle or rod to control the elevation of the scope, rotating round the axis of the mounting screws located onto the stanchion (See the top photo, next to, and on the left of the clamp).

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It is surprising to me that such a large telescope (ie 6 feet long and deck mounted) was used on-board a Clipper like the Carrier Dove, but this certainly seems probable.

James Corner & Sons

Based in Baltimore, James Corner & Sons employed all six sons of James Corner at various times, but possibly Ted’s main role was as a captain of one or other of their ships. These included the Carrier Dove, the barque Huntington, bought by Ted Corner in 1854 and used as late as 1860, the Maria, and, all in 1859, the North Carolina, the Birchhead and the bark Seneca.

Most of their trading activity involved voyages from Baltimore to Valparaiso, near Santiago in central Chile, via Cape Horn. Normal cargoes on the way out were pig iron, or in one case at least, a locomotive steam engine was delivered to San Francisco for the young railway there. The return journeys usually involved a cargo of guano, from the droppings of seabirds, seals, or cave-dwelling bats in Chile/Peru: this was valuable as a fertiliser. (Similar freight was possibly carried by James Bichard on the East Croft in 1895, from San Salvador, see the story published on www.telescopecollector.co.uk on 25 Aug 2014).

Ted Corner’s Voyages

Ted Corner started his sailing career in 1846, when the Baltimore Historical Society quote that he opened first transatlantic packet line, from Baltimore to Liverpool. Maybe he purchased the telescope (possibly second hand) on one of these voyages? Or the telescope might even have been bought by his father James, on an earlier voyage to Liverpool, to fit with the 1822-31 dating of the first sale of the telescope.

300px-carrierdoveclipperOne of Ted Corner’s later, regular ships was the Carrier Dove. It seems this was a relatively famous medium Clipper, 1694 tons, launched from Baltimore in 1855: on her maiden voyage to San Fransisco under Captain Corner, Carrier Dove was dis-masted in a hurricane just eight days out from New York. Nevertheless, she made it to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by November 9, in 55 days, and then remained in Rio for two months for repairs. In 1856 Captain Corner was in Australia: presumably travelling from there to Peru, in 1857 he sailed the Carrier Dove from the Chincha Islands, off Peru, to Liverpool, with 1094 tons of guano: it was delivered to Anthony Gibbs & Sons.

Carrier Dove was fast, in 1858, presumably on the return journey, Captain Corner sailed from Liverpool (UK) to Melbourne Australia in 78 days, and then on to Valparaiso in Chile in a near record 30 or 32 days (Wikipedia).


The Carrier Dove, from the Noble Maritime Museum

A painting of the Carrier Dove exists in the Noble Maritime Museum, in Staten Island, New York. Later, in 1876, when no longer a part of the James Corner fleet, Carrier Dove was wrecked three miles off Tybee Island, Georgia, en route from Liverpool. See www.carrierdove.org for extensive further info.

Further information

For anyone interested in further information about Ted Corner and his Baltimore Company, or in researching this telescope further, please make contact with the owner via this website.