This telescope is a totally different style to any of the others bearing the name JP Cutts that you will have seen on this website, or anywhere else! It’s actually a very nice example of the type – a four draw white metal plated telescope, with a Baleen covered barrel.
Probably not ethically or politically correct these days, Baleen is the material from the mouth of a Baleen whale, or a Bowhead whale (who have the longest strips of Baleen), the substance that creates a filtering system. The whale sucks in a lot of water and krill, then expels the mixture through the Baleen filter lengths, which hang down like a curtain from its top jaw, making a vertical blind-like curtain across the mouth, trapping the krill on the filter elements. It is a black plastic like flat strand, which is actually made of Keratin (a similar material to human fingernails).
In Victorian times the by-products of whale hunting were available, so why not use this long strip of Baleen to wrap around a telescope barrel?
The white metal coating on the four draws would seem to be a chrome coating, in that it has not tarnished the way that silver would have done, even during the time I have owned it. Very effective as a plating solution for such things.
The maker – James Sutton, actually
The engraving is “JP Cutts, Sutton and Son”, note the lack of a plural ‘Sons’, “Opticians to Her Majesty, Sheffield & London”. Whether we interpret anything from the sideways displacement of each line, I’m not sure: the “London” could have been added to the third line later.
John Sutton’s son, James, had joined the firm by 1852, and the name then changed to ‘J.P. Cutts, Sutton, & Son’. The 1854 Post Office Directory of Sheffield included “Cutts JP, Sutton & Son, Opticians to her Majesty, 39 Division Street, Sheffield, & 56 Hatton Garden, London, & 248 Pearl Street, New York”.
So this dates the telescope as after 1852.
John Priston Cutts died on 8 September 1858, at his Sheffield home. John Sutton died six months later, on 26 April 1859, aged 71. The optical business was reorganized in 1860 under the sole ownership of James Sutton, the son. He was a skilled optician, presumably having apprenticed with Cutts. James retained the business name JP Cutts, Sutton, & Son, presumably because of the Cutts reputation. Gloria Clifton fails to give any info about when this firm ceased trading: the 1891 Census returns show him still listed in Sheffield as an optical instrument manufacturer, then aged 69. The earlier 1861 census showed he employed 25 men, 6 boys and 19 women and girls: in 1881 these numbers had reduced a little, to 14 men, 8 boys and 8 women. Nevertheless, this shows James had a strong business over more than twenty years, and the firm was trading from 1852 until at least 1881.
This Telescope described
The telescope has 4 draws, and is 22” long extended. It is 6.75” when closed, so a good pocket size. OD is 1.75”, 1.625” for the barrel. There is a similarly silvered end cap over the objective, but regrettably the eyepiece cover is totally missing. It would have been a flat ended cap, with an internal thread to match the 0.9” OD thread on the outside of the first draw. If anyone has one of these spare, I’d be delighted to buy it. Having been thru all my telescopes, there is only one that seems anything near to the same size and thread, but I have to see if I can adapt it and silver plate it! It was on telescope #106, a small scope from Gowans of Dundee.
The joints between the first two draws were loose, in terms of holding the draw extended and in-line, as the telescope was handled. This seemed to be because the internal liners in the draw mounts were missing. In the other draws these liners are glued in place, between two shoulders positioned at each end. They appear to be made of thin hide/leather, and make a better low friction mount than was achieved by the previously fairly standard ‘U’ shaped cut-out flaps in such joints. The plan was to replace these, as they provide friction to hold the telescope draws in place, as well as keeping them aligned properly. It has been achieved with two pieces of thin leather, cut to fill part of the recess in the metal slider: they are not stuck in place, and make a good friction fit for the joints. I just need to remember not to remove the sliders completely!
The final, largest draw mount, that screws into the barrel of the scope, is decorated with a form of ivy-leaf pattern around the exposed rim – as well as having a knurled edge, which all the draws exhibit.
Around the barrel, a single length of black Baleen is wound round to cover a 5.25” length, in 22 turns. The Baleen is one long strip around 0.25” wide, and ridged along its length with around 7/8 grooves. Presumably it is glued down onto the metal of the barrel, at least at each end. A quick calculation makes the length of this Baleen strip around 112″, or over 9 feet! A very large whale’s mouth.
Who would have used this telescope? Probably it is a well-turned out Gentleman’s accessory, possibly the Master or a passenger on a trading ship. I don’t think it would have been used by an Army or Cavalry officer for military duties, its a little too shiny, bright and conspicuous.
I bought it from an Ebay trader based in the South-west of England in December 2010. It has Accession Number #142, and inside the end cap it had a previous sale price scratched on the metal, which was 50 shillings (GBP 2.50) – obviously some long time before when I bought it!