Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3084: Historic Dolland Brass Spyglass Inscribed 'G. Washington, Mt. Ve

Auction Date: December 6, 2015

Historic Dolland Brass Spyglass Inscribed "G. Washington, Mt. Vernon" with Notarized Letter of Family Provenance from William Lanier Washington with Case

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $15,000 - $25,000

Historic Dolland Brass Spyglass Inscribed "G. Washington, Mt. Vernon" with Notarized Letter of Family Provenance from William Lanier Washington with Case

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 2372
Catalog Page: 44
Class: Other

This spyglass or field telescope has a brass body and is 32 5/8 inches long opened and 19 inches long closed. The main body has been inscribed (at an unknown date, possibly early 20th century) "G. Washington/Mt. Vernon" in script. Towards the eye piece it is also inscribed "Dolland London" in script. The latter marking matches late 18th and early 19th century Dolland telescopes. The two script markings have slight variations in the lettering suggesting they were done by different hands. The included unique 20th century case is marked "Telescope/owned by/General Washington" on the inside and was likely produced to store the telescope in the early 20th century. The notarized letter states that the telescope was sold on February 7, 1920, at The American Art Association, New York City, was given by General Washington, during his lifetime to his nephew, Colonel William Augustine Washington, who was the Executor first mention after Martha Washington in General Washington's will. It was inherited by his son, Colonel George Corbin Washington, my great grand-father, from whom it passed to his son Colonel Lewis William Washington. His widow gave it to their son, William d'Hertburn Washington, who, during his life-time sold it to my younger brother, Lewis William Washington (deceased) from whom I inherited it. [signed] W. Lanier Washington. The Dollond (later spelled Dolland) family produced telescopes from the 17th century into the 20th century. "Optician to the King" John Dolland patented the achromatic lens in the 18th century and may have been the maker. Early Dolland telescopes are among the most desirable for collectors. A Peter & John Dolland telescope owned by Thomas Jefferson still stands in Monticello. The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. houses a field telescope used by Washington during the American Revolution. An inventory of Washington's estate upon his death listed "12 Spye glasses" and one larger telescope. The later, a scope by Samuel Whitford of London, remains at Mt. Vernon on display. He is seen holding a spyglass in his right hand in the John Trumbull painting, "George Washington Before the Battle of Trenton." An entry in "Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. . ." in 1909 notes that a "Telescope made by John Dolland, London, England, in about the year 1758. It was found on one of the ships captured by Commodore John Barry during the War of the Revolution and afterwards presented to Gen. George Washington." Telescopes were very popular among the wealthy elite in the colonies and Europe, and the technology behind them evolved greatly during Washington's life.

Rating Definition:

Fair. The brass has a well aged patina throughout including areas of darker and reddish hues. There are numerous scattered dings and some larger dents present on the tube. The front lens is a modern replacement. The insert for the eye piece is absent. The body or "barrel" of the telescope likely had a wood (rosewood often seen on Dolland pieces) or leather covering and has a series of scrapes at the joint.. The optics need cleaning or work. The inscriptions are distinct and show honest age. The case is poor with a well worn exterior, pieces of binding absent, and tears on the lining. This is a very interesting piece complete with a notarized letter from one of George Washington's descendants.

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