Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop Papers: Finding Aid

Finding aid prepared by Steven Collicelli, March 5, 2011.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Email: reference@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
© 2011
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.


Overview of the Collection

Title: Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1911-1966
Bulk dates: 1930-1947
Collection Number: mssMount Wilson optical shop
Creator: Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop.
Extent: 931 items in 8 boxes
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Email: reference@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
Abstract: This collection contains records of the Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop, relating to the operation of the department from 1911 to 1963 (bulk 1930-1947). The department was responsible for repairing and maintaining the Observatory's telescopes, as well as for observatories around the United States. The materials include research and procedural notes, correspondence, inventories and requisition slips, and job lists and employee time sheets.
Language: English.

Access

Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

Administrative Information

Publication Rights

The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item]. Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Provenance

Deposit, Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington Collection, 1988. Approximately fifty additional separate collections form the Mount Wilson Papers of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and are available for research in the Manuscripts Department of the Huntington Library.

Historical Note

Founded in December 1904 by George Ellery Hale and funded by the Carnegie Institution, the Mount Wilson Observatory quickly became one of the 20th century’s major astronomical research centers. Located just north of Los Angeles high atop the San Gabriel Mountains, the observatory took full advantage of Southern California’s clear nights and uniquely steady air. The observatory’s 60’’ telescope completed in 1908 was the largest then in existence. In 1917, another Mount Wilson telescope, 100’’ in diameter, claimed that title. The Optical Shop was the department responsible for repairing and maintaining these telescopes. Optical Shop workers ground and polished mirrors, lenses, and prisms: tasks requiring meticulous precision and technique. In addition to serving Mount Wilson, the Optical Shop produced optical instruments for observatories across the country.
During the Second World War, the Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop played an important role in U.S. war effort. Shop technicians produced roof prisms for military optics on a large scale, eventually publishing an instruction manual for other optical workshops. Experiments with newly-invented Schmidt cameras helped develop the field of aerial photography. New camera shutters and film sweep mechanisms were invented. Procedures for measuring lens resolution were tested.

Scope and Content

The Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop Papers comprise 8 boxes of material relating to the operation of the department from 1911 to 1963 (bulk 1930-1947). This material is divided into four general categories: research and procedural notes, correspondence, inventories and requisition slips, and job lists and employee time sheets. Each group is arranged chronologically. Various scientific manuals, brochures, and unidentified notes have been gathered into a folder of ephemera.
Shop notebooks form the bulk of the research material. These notebooks outline various procedures for grinding and polishing mirrors, drilling glass, and configuring lenses. Several notebooks track the construction of the observatory’s 100’’ Hooker telescope as well as the 200’’ Hale telescope housed at the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory. Declassified research on aerial photography for the National Defense Research Committee is included in several progress reports.
The majority of correspondence is between Optical Shop technicians and astronomers both at Mount Wilson and elsewhere around the country. These letters are generally technical in nature with the various interlocutors trying to solve specific optical problems. Several manufacturing firms solicit the Optical Shop personnel about their products. Walter S. Adams and Don O. Hendrix participate in the bulk of the correspondence. Included is Hendrix’s signed “Pledge of Secrecy” and commission from the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Inventory notebooks detail the supplies used in the Optical Shop: everything from towels and paper goods to slabs of optical glass and chemical solvents. Lists of lenses, mirrors, and prisms record material in stock and material lent out to other institutions. Requisition slips and shipping invoices illustrate the broad network of suppliers the shop needed for their highly specialized work.
A number of notebooks chart the myriad jobs the Optical Shop performed for both the Mount Wilson Observatory and other institutions. These notebooks assign each job a number, outline the work, and list the employees working on it. Separate employee time charts are also included with address and contact information for each.
Notable participants include: Walter S. Adams, who succeeded Hale as director of the observatory, Don O. Hendrix, the Shop's chief optician and Ira Sprague Bowen, Bannevar Bush, Robert E. Hopkins, Brian O'Brien, Frank E. Ross, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Note: Two inventory notebooks have been treated for mold and are held separate from the main collection. Please contact Reader Services for access to these notebooks.

Arrangement

Arranged in 8 boxes in the following order:
  • Boxes 1-2: Research and Procedure Notes
  • Box 3: Correspondence
  • Boxes 4-6: Shop Inventories, Invoices, and Requisition Slips
  • Boxes 7-8: Job Lists and Time Charts and Ephemera

Indexing: Added Entries

Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956.
  • Addressee of Frank E. (Frank Elmore) Ross, 1874-1960 letter (1936, May 30). Box 3 (1).
  • Addressee of B.H. Witherspoon letters (1941, July-1941, Aug.). Box 3 (5). Addressee of Benjamin Liebowitz letter (1945, Dec. 10). Box 3 (29).
Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973.
  • Addressee of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.) letter (1949, Nov. 22). Box 3 (40).

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

Subjects

Carnegie Institution of Washington.
Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories.
Mount Wilson Observatory -- History -- Sources.
Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop.
Office of Scientific Research and Development.
Astronomers -- United States -- Correspondence.
Astronomical observatories -- California -- Wilson, Mount (Mountain)
Astronomical photography -- Equipment and supplies.
Astronomy -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Astrophysics -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Telescopes -- Design and construction -- History -- Sources.

Forms/Genres

Inventories -- California -- 20th century.
Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 20th century.
Notebooks -- California -- 20th century.
Time sheets -- California -- 20th century.

Additional Contributors

Adams, Walter S. (Walter Sydney), 1876-1956.
Bowen, Ira Sprague, 1898-1973, recipient.
Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974.
Hendrix, Don O.
Hopkins, Robert E. (Robert Earl)
O'Brien, Brian, 1898-1992.
Ross, Frank E. (Frank Elmore), 1874-1960.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.)
Mount Wilson Observatory.


Collection Contents

 

Research and Procedure Notes

Box 1

Research and Procedure Notes

Folder 1

1911, Feb.-Oct. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 2

1911, Oct.-1912, Sep. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 3

1912, Oct.-1913, May. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 4

1913, May-Nov. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 5

1913, Dec.-1914, Oct. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 6

1914, Oct.-1916, Apr. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 7

1916, Apr.-1917, Oct. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 8

1917, Oct.-1918, June Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 9

1931, Oct.-1938, Nov. “Silvering Notes.” 1 item.

Folder 10

[1936, Dec. 15-1938,-Mar.]. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 11

1937, Dec.-1939, Jan. Lens Blueprints. 7 items.

Folder 12

[1939-1942]. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 13

1943, Mar.-1944, Dec. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Box 2

Research and Procedure Notes

Folder 1

1936, Nov.-Dec. Performance Graphs, Focal Ratio Data. 9 items.

Folder 2

1942, May. “The Schmidt Camera Project” 4th Progress Report. 1 item.

Folder 3

1942, May. “The Schmidt Camera Project” 5th Progress Report. 1 item.

Folder 4

1942, Aug. “The Schmidt Camera Project” Final Progress Report. 1 item.

Folder 5

1943, Aug. Army Air Force Training Manual. 8 items.

Folder 6

[1943]. “Progress Report on NDRC Project D3-29.” 1 item.

Folder 7

[1943]. Note on Reflecting Telescope. 1 item.

Folder 8

[1943]. Prism and Camera Lens Diagrams. 3 items.

Folder 9

1944, Sep.-Oct. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 10

1946, Oct. Note on Primers. 1 item.

Folder 11

1947, Sep. “Facts Concerning 36’’ Machine.” 1 item.

Folder 12

[before 1947, Sep.]. Notes on 48’ Schmidt Lens. 4 items.

Folder 13

1949, Mar. 1 item. Prism Diagram.

Folder 14

1949, June-1949, Sep. 20 items. Temperature Diagrams.

Folder 15

1952, Jan. Casting Diagram for Iron Tools. 1 item.

Folder 16

1962, July-1963, June. Shop Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 17

[Undated]. “Laboratory Optical Work.” 1 item.

Folder 18

[Undated]. Lens Diagram. 1 item.

Folder 19

[Undated]. Notes on Adhesives. 1 item.

Folder 20

[Undated]. Notes on Testing Plane-Parallels. 1 item.

Folder 21

[Undated]. Notes on Polishing. 1 item.

Folder 22

[Undated]. Notes on Polishing Glass. 6 items.

Folder 23

[Undated]. Star Charts. 2 items.

Folder 24

[Undated]. Vistanex Polybutene Specifications. 1 item.

 

Correspondence

Box 3

Correspondence

Folder 1

1936, May 30. Ross, Frank E. (Frank Elmore), 1874-1960. 1 letter to Walter S. (Walter Sydney) Adams, 1876-1956. Includes notes on 60’’ telescope.

Folder 2

1941, May-June. James H. Rhodes & Company. 2 letters to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 3

1941, June 19. Day, R. K. 1 letter to J. R. Masters.

Folder 4

1941, June 23. Andrus, H. C. 1 letter to R. K. Day.

Folder 5

1941, July-1941, Aug. Witherspoon, B. H. 2 letters to Walter S. (Walter Sydney) Adams, 1876-1956.

Folder 6

1941, Oct. 8. Stewart, Irvin. 1 letter to “All Personnel of the OSRD organization.”

Folder 7

1941, Oct. 9. Jones, A. E. 1 letter to Mount Wilson Observatory.

Folder 8

1941, Oct. 14. Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix. Includes a “Pledge of Secrecy.”

Folder 9

1941, Oct. 27. Thompson, Charles G. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 10

1941, Nov. 13. O’Brien, Brian, 1898-1992. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 11

1941, Dec. 4. Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. 1 letter to “All Persons Holding Office of Scientific Research and Development Appointments Carrying No Compensation.” Includes form signed by Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 12

1942, Dec.- 1943, Mar. Hopkins, Robert E. (Robert Earl). 2 letters to Theodore Dunham. Includes 4 pages of lens notes.

Folder 13

1942, Dec. 31. Arthur, E. P. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 14

1943, Jan. 4. Hendrix, Don O. 1 letter to H.K. Stephenson Esq.

Folder 15

1943, Jan.-Feb. Hendrix, Don O. 2 letters to Herbert E. Ives, 1882-1953.

Folder 16

1943, Jan. 21. Christie, W.H. 1 letter to Herbert Eugene Ives, 1882-1953.

Folder 17

1943, Feb. 2. [Mount Wilson Observatory Optical Shop]. 1 letter to Polaroid Corporation.

Folder 18

1943, Feb. 4. Christie, W. H. 1 letter to “Norton Company.”

Folder 19

1943, Feb.-1943, Mar. Christie, W. H. 4 letters to Brian O’Brien, 1898-1992.

Folder 20

1943, Feb. 19. Christie, W. H. 1 letter to N. C. Jamison.

Folder 21

1943, Feb. 26. Mount Wilson Observatory. 1 letter to Army Air Force Materiel Center.

Folder 22

1943, Mar. 4. O’Brien, Brian, 1989-1992. 1 letter to W. H. Christie. Includes envelope.

Folder 23

1943, Mar. 13. The Norton Company. 1 letter to W. H. Christie.

Folder 24

1943, Mar. 19. Hopkins, Robert E. (Robert Earl). 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix. Includes 6 pages of diagrams.

Folder 25

1943, Mar. 29. Buckley, Walter G. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 26

1943, Mar. 31. Mount Wilson Observatory. 1 letter to Walter G. Buckley.

Folder 27

1943, Mar. 31. Hendrix, Don O.1 letter to Aluminum Company of Canada, Ltd.

Folder 28

1943, Apr. 2. Felker Manufacturing Co. 1 letter to Mount Wilson Observatory. Includes shipping invoice.

Folder 29

1945, Dec. 10. Liebowitz, Benjamin. 1 letter to Walter S. (Walter Sydney) Adams, 1876- 1956.

Folder 30

1946, Jan. 15. Mount Wilson Optical Dept. 1 letter to Benjamin Liebowitz.

Folder 31

1946, Jan.-Feb. Liebowitz, Benjamin. 2 letters to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 32

1946, Mar. 25. Hendrix, Don O. 1 letter to Benjamin Liebowitz.

Folder 33

1946, Aug. 15. Hansen, Waldemar G. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 34

1946, Sep. 1. Optical Mold and Machinery Co. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix. Includes 3 BW photographs.

Folder 35

1947, Jan. 17. Martling, M. G. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 36

1947, Sep. 22. Rule, B. H. 1 letter to Don. O. Hendrix. Includes “Erection Notes -- 72’’ Mirror & Cell.”

Folder 37

1947, Oct. 4. “XTY.” 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix. Enclosed 6 strips of photographic negatives and includes envelope.

Folder 38

1949, Feb. 2. Elgin National Watch Company. 1 letter to Don Hendrix.

Folder 39

1949, Mar. 28. Bingswanger-Henkin Industries. 1 letter to H. L. (Henry L.) Giclas.

Folder 40

1949, Nov. 22. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (U.S.). 1 letter to Ira Sprague Bowen, 1898- 1973.

Folder 41

1949, Dec. 12. Leekley and Booz Vapor Blast Manufacturing, Co. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 42

1950, Mar. 25. Vrabel, Joseph. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix.

Folder 43

1952, Jan. 8. Corning Glass Works. 1 letter to Don O. Hendrix. Includes notes on Pyrex glass.

Folder 44

[Undated]. Hendrix, Don O. 1 letter to Eastman Kodak Co.

Folder 45

[Undated]. Farrand Optical Co., Inc. 1 letter to “Dear Sir.”

 

Shop Inventories, Invoices, and Requisition Slips

Box 4

Shop Inventories

Folder 1

1928, July-1935, Jan. Optical Parts- Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 2

1929, Mar.-1940, Mar. Glass Purchases. 1 item.

Folder 3

1931, Mar.-1935, Feb. Shop Supplies-Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 4

1935, Jan.-1937, Jan. Shop Supplies-Inventory. Includes: “Guarantee for Big Ben Chime Alarm” and 8 supply slips signed ‘Martin.’ 10 items.

Folder 5

1935, May 11. Optical Equipment Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 6

1937, Jan.-1938, Apr. Shop Supplies- Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 7

1938, May-1939, Dec. Shop Supplies- Inventory. Includes 2 business cards: Abbott Linen, Co. and Carolina Absorbent Cotton, Co. 3 items.

Folder 8

1930, Sep.-1936, Oct. Lens Stock Inventory. 1 item. Item has been treated for mold and is held separate from the main collection.

Folder 9

1937, July-1941, May. Shop Supplies-Inventory. 1 item. Item has been treated for mold and is held separate from the main collection.

Box 5

Shop Inventories (continued)

Folder 1

1939, Dec.-1941, Nov. Shop Supplies- Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 2

1940, Apr. 17. Glass Stock Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 3

1940, Apr. 23. Prism Stock Inventory 1 item.

Folder 4

1940, Apr. 24. Lens Stock Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 5

1940, Apr.-1944, Sep. Mirror Stock Inventory. Includes 1 page insert. 2 items.

Folder 6

1941, Nov.-1943, Aug. Shop Supplies- Inventory. 1 item

Folder 7

1943, Aug.-1945, June. Shop Supplies Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 8

1946, Dec. 14. Present Status of Pyrex and Quartz Mirrors. Created by the Fund for Astrophysical Research. 1 item.

Box 6

Inventories (continued), Invoices, and Requisition Slips

Folder 1

1948. Shop Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 2

[1948]. Shop Inventory. 1 item.

Folder 3

[Undated]. Iron Tools and Test Plates-Inventory. Includes 3 measurement templates. 4 items.

Folder 4

[Undated]. Shop Inventory. 2 items.

Folder 5

1920, Nov.-1924, Dec. Spencer Lens Company. 9 invoices.

Folder 6

1924, June. Corning Glass Works. 5 invoices.

Folder 7

1927, Sep.-1931, June. Parsons Optical Glass Company. 6 invoices.

Folder 8

1929, Dec.-1939, July. Jena Glaswerk Schott & Gen. Jena. 9 invoices.

Folder 9

1930, Feb.-1936, May. Fish-Schurman Inc. 2 invoices.

Folder 10

1935, Jan. 18. Pittsburg Plate Glass, Co. 1 invoice.

Folder 11

1943, Mar. 3. Bausch and Lomb Optical Company. 2 invoices.

Folder 12

1943, Mar. 6. F.C. Nash and Co. 1 invoice.

Folder 13

1944, Mar. 15. Crucible Steel Company of America. 1 invoice.

Folder 14

1920 Slips. 3 items.

Folder 15

1921 Slips. 22 items.

Folder 16

1922 Slips. 41 items.

Folder 17

1923 Slips. 27 items.

Folder 18

1924 Slips. 33 items.

Folder 19

1925 Slips. 28 items.

Folder 20

1926 Slips. 37 items.

Folder 21

1927 Slips. 44 items.

Folder 22

1928 Slips. 23 items.

Folder 23

1929 Slips. 58 items.

Folder 24

1930 Slips. 52 items.

Folder 25

1931 Slips. 40 items.

Folder 26

1932 Slips. 9 items.

Folder 27

1933 Slips. 7 items.

Folder 28

1934 Slips. 16 items.

Folder 29

1935 Slips. 14 items.

Folder 30

1936 Slips. 22 items.

Folder 31

1937 Slips. 29 items.

Folder 32

1938 Slips. 13 items.

Folder 33

1939 Slips. 21 items.

Folder 34

1940 Slips. Includes one Foundation for Astrophysical Research requisition slip. 20 items.

Folder 35

1941 Slips. Includes one Foundation for Astrophysical Research requisition slip. 9 items.

Folder 36

1942 Slips. 10 items.

Folder 37

1943 Slips. 32 items.

Folder 38

[Undated]. Requisition for Polaroid. Includes note “Ted” to Don O. Hendrix. 2 items.

 

Job Lists and Time Charts and Ephemera

Box 7

Job Lists and Time Charts

Folder 1

1933, July-1937, June. Lens Work Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 2

1937, Nov.-1939, Mar. Don O. Hendrix Optical Work Time Charts. 9 items.

Folder 3

1938, Feb.-1947, Feb. Record of Mirrors Aluminized. Includes three oak leaf shipping tags. 4 items.

Folder 4

1938, Dec.-1940, June. Finished Mirrors Notebook. Includes 3 notes concerning various lens jobs. 4 items.

Folder 5

1941, Mar.-Nov. Outside Jobs Record Notebook. 1 item.

Folder 6

1941, Apr.-1942, Feb. Time Book for Inter Department Jobs. 1 item.

Folder 7

1941, Sep.-Apr. 1942. Job # 18 Work And Time Charts. 1 item.

Box 8

Job Lists and Time Charts (continued) and Ephemera

Folder 1

1941, Oct.-1948, Dec. Outside Job Numbers Book 1. 1 item.

Folder 2

1945, Jan.-1949, Apr. Outside Job Numbers Book 2. 1 item.

Folder 3

1941, Nov.-1942, Apr. Daily Employee Time Charts. 1 item.

Folder 4

1942, Apr.-Sep. Daily Employee Time Charts. 1 item.

Folder 5

1943, Mar.-Apr. Production Log Book. 1 item. 6. [1942-1943]. Job Numbers. 1 item.

Folder 7

1946, May 22. General Repairs. 2 items.

Folder 8

1946, Oct. 15. General Repairs and Work in Shop for Completion. 3 items.

Folder 9

1947, Feb. 1. General Repairs and Work in Shop for Completion. Includes a handwritten addendum. 5 items.

Folder 10

[Undated]. Job Numbers.15 items. 11. [1907-1949]. Ephemera. 20 items.