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Charles Achilles Spencer, born in Lennox, New York in 1813 was advertising as a microscope maker by about 1838. The initial microscopes were horizontal microscopes based on French designs by Charles Chevalier, and compound microscopes similar to those sold by Andrew Pritchard. By the 1850s he made his barlimb Trunnion microscope, modeled on the type originated by Andrew Ross. He also made a Lister Limb Student model erected on a Ross-type foot.

In 1854 Charles formed a partnership with Professor Eaton of Troy, New York. This was dissolved about 1865. Spencer then formed C.A. Spencer and Sons in Canastota N.Y. until 1875 when he moved to Geneva and associated with the Geneva Optical until 1877, when the firm became C.A. Spencer and Sons in Geneva. In 1880 Herbert, Charles' son formed H. R. Spencer and Company. In 1889 he moved to Cleveland, OH, and formed a partnership with one of Charles' former partners Fred R. Smith to form Spencer and Smith until 1895 when when Dr Roswell Park, H.R. spencer and two others incorporated the Spencer Lens Company. This company continued and was acquired as part of American Optical in 1935. The Spencer Lens company was a division of American Optical eventually dropping the Spencer name, simply becoming the Scientific Instrument Division of American optical. Eventually American Optical became part of Reichert and then both became part of Cambridge Instruments in 1986.