I just wonder how much more an observer could see with a 3 inch scope back then than we can now. Just imagine how dark the skies were back then. Even today, when we go ( haven't been lately because of the covid) to my mother-in-law's house 100 miles away, way out in the country, the sky does not seem like the same sky that I see here at home. And I know that the skies were a lot darker back then than they are now in darker areas like I just mentioned.
The funny thing is, that back then, when observers had access to even VERY dark skies close to home (or from their home), they almost universally observed bright objects, like double stars, the Moon and the planets, all things that can be observed easily in moderate or even heavy light pollution. Very few observers looked at deep-sky objects, save for the brightest Messiers and a few Herschel (later NGC) objects. Almost no one had any idea that you could see thousands of deep-sky objects with a 3" refractor and in any case, good deep-sky atlases simply didn't exist, making starhopping virtually impossible. You had to rely on cataloged positions and setting circles to find objects, which work reasonably well with things you can see somewhat easily, like the Messiers, but fall hopelessly short if things are very dim. In addition to all this, the averted vision technique wasn't as well known as it is today and this meant that most observing guides were far more pessimistic about what should be visible, compared to today. In short, most amateurs didn't know how to observe deep-sky objects, so they tended not to.
You can actually follow how amateur astronomer's perception of deep-sky observing changed over the decades by reading the deep-sky articles in Sky and Telescope from 1947 and until today. The change from then until today is profound. Some objects we today consider worthwhile and interesting targets in even modest instruments, were considered practically visually impossible back then, even in the largest telescopes, only visible on photographs. This is quite odd, because some of them had been discovered visually! By "reading between the lines", it becomes quite obvious that some observers had learned how to master averted vision, even if the technique wasn't well known, and that others didn't know about it, which explains the often enormous difference in what different observers saw. By the 1960'ies, averted vision had become much more commonly known. The first really good deep-sky atlas, Atlas Coeli, had become available and a certain, pipe-puffing Walter Scott Houston had begun writing deep-sky articles in Sky and Telescope, dedicated to owners of small telescopes. Soon, even owners of the now ubiquitous Japanese 60mm refractors reported seeing all the Messier objects, as well as many NGC. The knowledge of how to observe deep-sky objects had begun to grow.
Sadly, so had light pollution.