Congratulations on finding and restoring that cool 12.5-inch Dynascope! I had a Dynascope catalogue in middle school in the early 1970s, and I spent hours gazing at it and dreaming....
Your scope is essentially twin, even in small details, to one that was purchased new in 1972 for a summer science program called Camp Uraniborg that was running at the Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island. I thought I should relay that because it's a bit of evidence that's useful to date when yours was made -- very likely, close to 1972.
I attended Uraniborg that year and still have clear & fond memories of how impressive the Dynascope seemed. Although effective for the program (which included photoelectric photometry), the optical performance wasn't ideal. In fact, the mirror wasn't fully polished-out. The optical problems were at least in part, if not entirely, due to the fact the telescope had to be delivered in time for the summer camp. So it had been a rushed job, of necessity. Rick Shaffer, later well known at RTMC in California, was our telescope-making instructor at Uraniborg, and he's the one who later recalled the "inside" history of the Uraniborg Dynascope for me.
About eight years later (an interval that seemed a long time back then!) I visited the school in Rhode Island and discovered that the telescope (which had been left behind when the Camp moved-on in 1973 to Newberry Springs in California) was in neglected storage. I was able to acquire it nearly free, and I repainted it and set it up at my home in Massachusetts. It was very exciting! That's why I remember odd details about it so clearly even now. The Uraniborg primary, for example, was mounted just like yours in its cell, with several pads of thick foam rubber supporting it at its circumference. It was not ideal. But the Uraniborg scope certainly served its purpose and actually performed scientific measurements -- photoelectric photometry -- in 1972. And it inspired the heck out of us!
I was very nostalgic about the Dynascope and normally would never have dreamed of parting with it. But things came to pass that left me no choice. Within a couple years, I discovered that there was a heavily tarnished 4 1/8-inch refractor at nearby Milton Academy. It survived in a somewhat decayed original wooden storage chest. I knew what it was as soon as I saw it, and I knew where to look for an inscription that I expected. And there it was! Clear, but not obvious without knowing to look: "Alvan Clark & Sons, Cambridge, Mass. 1865." The Milton Observatory had a larger refractor that they believed was a Clark and a number of other telescopes. The astronomy instructor was receptive to the idea of trading away Milton's neglected 4 1/8-inch. As I eventually learned, the teacher was in fact a famous science fiction author, Harry Clement Stubbs (1922-2003). I returned with my father's station wagon, with the complete and very-well-painted 12.5-inch Dynascope resting in the back. Mr. Stubbs had merely to look through the window into the back of the Pontiac, and he said, "OK, trade!" Yet again, the Dynascope had worked its charm as an impressive instrument!
The 1865 Clark was tarnished but otherwise in very good condition, and for years it was a special jewel in my growing telescope collection. And I really used it, eventually even here in New Mexico. I particularly remember showing Encke's Comet to my young family. I held onto that memory, however, because it was among the last times I used it. Again, "things came to pass." We needed to help pay for a job-related new home as I had become an engineer at Apache Point Observatory. At the same time, I had an opportunity to sell the 1865 to the Alder Planetarium collection in Chicago. Thus, I passed it along. Last I saw, it's displayed right beside the 18 1/2-inch Dearborn telescope that's of very nearly the same vintage.
One always regrets parting with special instruments no matter how correct the decision was at the time. But I've had enough luck finding other cool instruments for my own collection, so I'm quite at peace over the 1865 now! And eventually I added another Clark from the same era to my collection -- the Allegheny College 7-inch. (Negotiating that with the College took about 28 years, but it worked out!)
I posted the story of the Camp Uraniborg 12.5-inch Dynascope years ago on an early Criterion discussion group. But it was long enough ago -- and now likely well-buried in Internet compost -- that I thought I should share the story again.
The epilogue is that eventually Milton Academy replaced its old observatory (that was neat but something of a ramshackle), and my close friend in New England, Ken Launie, acquired many things from there, including the Uraniborg Dynascope! However, time and students had not been kind to the Dynascope. The tube body was lost or hopelessly damaged as I recall, and Ken passed the equatorial mounting on to other hands. The primary mirror -- still quite un-fully polished and not too well corrected -- remains in Ken's hands as far as I know. And I've told him, with a smile -- please don't ever part with it, without telling me first! ;-)
--John W. Briggs,
Magdalena, New Mexico.
PS: A story related to a 12.5-inch that replaced the Dynascope at Uraniborg in 1973 is posted on the Cave Astrola website.
Edited by JWBriggs, 07 September 2020 - 08:59 PM.