U.S. NAVAL OBSERVATORY, 1888. AN ALBUM OF 14 PHOTOS. L.C.W. [gilt-stamped front cover title]

A period photograph album, with 14 images of the observatory, each measuring approximately 4 ½ x 7 ¼ inches, mounted on thick card stock leaves. The Naval Observatory was founded in 1830, and construction of its new observatory, located at 24th & E Streets, NW, in Washington, D.C., was completed in 1844. Matthew Fontaine Maury was appointed its first superintendent. The images show buildings on the grounds of this location in Foggy Bottom, including two of the Observatory dome, and two of a solar heliostat. Lieutenant A.G. Winterhalter was assigned to the Naval Observatory in 1884, and was in charge of photography and inspection of instruments; he was also assigned to prepare the Observatory's exhibit at the Centennial Exposition of the Ohio Valley and Central States held in Cincinnati in 1888. From a report by Commander Allan D. Brown, Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Observatory, from October 29, 1888: "The preparation of the photographic portion of the exhibit was entrusted to Lieut. A.G. Winterhalter, who devoted much time and attention to this duty. The result of his labor was a series of photographs of the Observatory, instruments, etc., much more complete than the Observatory has ever before possessed." Winterhalter's own report on the exhibition includes a list of photographs of the Observatory which were included in the display: the Transit Circle building, the 9.6 inch Equatorial refractor, the great dome and prime vertical room, Compass House Nos. 1 & 2, etc. Perhaps this album which contains some of these listed images was created by him in conjunction with the exhibit and given to a relative, friend, or official. The Observatory did not move to its current location on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C., until 1893. According to the Naval Observatory's official website, the old Observatory in Foggy Bottom was declared a National Historic landmark in 1966 and was for a time the home of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Pebbled leather photograph album (rubbed), gilt lettering on front cover "U.S. Naval Observatory. 1888. L.C.W." Front board detached, spine perished; some soiling to margins of the backing boards. Item #60279

The U.S. Naval Observatory in Foggy Bottom was described in "Boyd's Directory of the District of Columbia," [Washington, DC: c.1879], p.809: "The site is a beautiful one, having a commanding view of the surrounding country. It occupies a high rank among the observatories of the world, there being but one (that in Russia) superior to it. By it, is regulated the time of the city and Government, and from it is calculated the longitude of the Western Hemisphere." This optimistic view of the site was not shared by all. The area around the Observatory was swampy and Admiral John Rodgers, who became superintendent of the Naval Observatory in 1877, declared "that the malarious influences surrounding it were notorious, and that from May to about the middle of October the officers whose services were necessarily in the Observatory at night, paid the penalty in impaired health and diminished efficiency. The fogs which arise from the river, driven by the prevailing winds, float above the instruments and lessen their usefulness." [see: Steven J. Dick's book, "Sky and Ocean Joined: The U.S. Naval Observatory 1830-2000," [Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003] p.297].

Price: $1,500.00