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(later models were called the 'New Folding Achromatic Pocket Microscope'):

c. 1880's




accessSigned 'J.H. STEWARD, 406 STRAND', this microscope is entirely contained in, and permanently attached to, the inside of mahogany case measuring 4 3/4 by 2 by 1 1/2 inches when closed. A catch on the end holds it closed. It is about twice the length when open. Upon opening, the body of the microscope is manually erected from its storage position, supported by two plates of brass which are hinged at the bottom and also to the sleeve carrying the body tube. This process is guided by built-in stops that ensure the correct position both of the brass plates and the sleeve. There is a single ocular and a three component divisible objective. The ocular has two optical parts, one of which is integrated into the inner ocular tube. The top part screws into the tube. The stage swivels up on a hinge and is limited at about 45 degrees. There are two spring-steel stage clips. A single sided concave mirror is supported on one side by a short brass rod which attaches to a polished steel rod which telescopes from inside an outer brass rod. This outer brass rod is attached at its bottom to the side of the case, held in place by a screw on which it swivels up or down. Accessories include a thin glass dipping tube, tiny brass live box, and small tweezers, all fitting into purpose-made compartments in the case. When in the open position, a brass catch holds to the two halves fully open.

James Henry Steward started his business in London in 1852. Although his business started as retail business selling watches and firearms-related optical equipment, the business grew to include telescopes, binoculars, compasses, barometers, and microscopes. As his sons joined the business, each operated a satellite store. Steward held patents relating to binoculars, telescopes, and aneroid barometers but no microscope-related patents. Over the years, Steward sold many instruments with their name on the instruments, but many of these were made by others for Steward. Clear and obvious examples shown in the 1903 catalog include Watson's Fram microscope, Edinburgh Stand, and some clearly French imports. The three addresses in the catalog in which this example is shown, circa 1880, were in operation at that time. The Cornhill address was in operation between about 1866 and about 1893. The Strand address was the original address from 1856 through 1971!

withering folding microscope The idea of a pocket microscope is one that went on for hundreds of years with innumerable examples being produced. Relative few models which were permanently integrated into their wooden case were produced though. Perhaps the best known of these was the Folding Withering Botanical Microscope, a form which automatically erects itself into the operating position as the case is opened.

Steward folding microscope 1880 As can be seen from the 1880 catalog entry, the instrument shown here was at first called the 'New Portable Microscope' and it came equipped with precisely the complement of accessories that are with it now, including one eyepiece, a divisible objective, live box, tweezers, and glass dipping tube in a mahogany case.  

Strangely enough, the same microscope, sold by Newton rather than Steward, was described on page 379 of the JRMS 1900 where it was said to be listed in the Newton catalog for 'many years'. In that article, its design was attributed to Henry Anderson, a former Ross employee, circa 1875.

Steward folding microscopeBy the 1903 catalog, however, a slightly different design was adapted, and this time it was called 'Steward's Folding Achromatic Microscope.'  

Steward was not the only firm to sell these microscopes. A microscope identical to my example was also sold by Newton & Co. Another example, signed Dixey, Brighton was offered for sale on Ebay during April 2022. Another (unsigned) example is known that was sold at Christies South Kensington in 1990; that example had a rack and pinion focusing mechanism but was otherwise identical. Curiously, so far at least, I have not been able to locate any example of the newer model shown in Stewart's 1903 catalog.

The author is greatful to both Dr Joe Zeligs and James Solliday for supplying the catalog engravings shown on this page. For a short summary of information about about the 'Pocket Microscope' see the article on Pocket Microscopes on this site.

The author is very grateful to James Solliday and Dr Joseph Zeligs for supplying the catalog engravings shown on this web page.