- A collapsing telescope owned by Thomas Chew. USS Constitution Museum Collection.
Thomas Chew's Telescope
What is this?
A collapsing telescope owned by Thomas Chew
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
This telescope is important not merely for the fact that it is the type used by mariners during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but also because of its owner Thomas J. Chew (1777-1846). Appointed purser in 1809, Chew's duty was to attend to the money and supplies need to make his ship an effective fighting force. This is a personal telescope, small enough to be slipped into a pocket. It is not known if Chew carried this while on board Constitution during the War of 1812, but it is easy to imagine him joining the ranks of the officers on the quarterdeck straining to see through their telescopes enemy ships on the horizon.
After seeing considerable action during the war (he was on board the frigate Chesapeake when she was captured by HMS Shannon), Chew continued as a purser until he resigned his commission in 1832. He died in Brooklyn, NY in 1846.
This is a mahogany and brass collapsing 4-draw tube telescope with the inscription "Thomas Chew/Purser" engraved on the brass extension that houses the lens. It measures 8 ½ inches collapsed and 24 inches at full extension. The objective lens is 1 ½ inches in diameter. The telescope is 1 ¾ inches in diameter at the widest point. Its objective lens has a protective brass cap. The eyepiece has an integral sliding lens cover. There are slight scratches and indents, probably from normal usage.