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Washington University Observatory Collection


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description



Student Materials





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Washington University Observatory Collection, 1879-2003 | WUA University Archives

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Collection Overview

Title: Washington University Observatory Collection, 1879-2003Add to your cart.

ID: WUA/01/wua00330

Primary Creator: Washington University Observatory

Extent: 5.0 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection is comprised of historical materials from the Washington University Observatory.  This includes records of observations, plans of the Observatory, and reports.  Many items in the collection are extremely fragile and require special handling.

Collection Historical Note

At the inaugural ceremonies of Washington University in 1857, William Greenleaf Eliot, the first chancellor, announced that the local philanthropist James Yeatman had donated $1,500 for the making of a superior telescope. The lenses for the 6-inch refractor, made by Henry Fitz & Co., and refigured in 1882 by Alvan Clark & Sons, are still in use today. Fitz and Clark were two of the most noted American telescope makers of the 19th century.

During the latter part of the 19th century, the Observatory, at that time located at 18th and St. Charles Streets in downtown St. Louis, served as a source of standard time for the region. A network of some 50,000 miles of telegraph wire existed. Henry W. Pritchett and other Observatory astronomers made several valuable determinations of longitude. In 1905, as the University moved to the present location from downtown, the Observatory moved to a site where Louderman Hall (chemistry) now stands. In 1954, the present dome atop Crow Hall was completed. The present electric drive for the telescope was installed in the mid-1960s, replacing the original pendulum drive.

Administrative Information

Repository: WUA University Archives

Accruals: Accruals are interfiled with collection.

Access Restrictions: Open

Use Restrictions:

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu. (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)

Physical Access Note: Some of these materials are fragile and may require special handling.

Acquisition Method: Accession number WUA2014-076

Preferred Citation: [Item description]. From the [collection title, series, box, folder]. University Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Processing Information: Updated by Sarah Gabriel in June 2016

Finding Aid Revision History: Updated by Sarah Gabriel in June 2016

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: History],
[Series 3: Student Materials],
[Series 4: Publications],
[Series 5: Data],
[Series 6: Miscellaneous],
[Series 7: Photography],

Series 4: PublicationsAdd to your cart.
Box 5Add to your cart.
Folder 1: "The Astronomical League", c.2000sAdd to your cart.
Web Print-Outs
Folder 2: "Comet News Service", 1976Add to your cart.
Issue No. 76-4, pub. Of McDonnel Planetarium, St. Louis
Folder 3: "A Laboratory Manual for Beginning Astronomy", 1949Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Naval Observatory Publications, 1974-1975Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Planet Descriptions, n.d.Add to your cart.
Master Copy
Folder 6: Pubs. Pritchett, H. "Results of Double Star Observations'", 1897Add to your cart.
Folder 7: "Reading List--Astronomy for the Novice", 1975Add to your cart.
Folder 8: "Scale Model of Universe", n.d.Add to your cart.
with Ditto copy sheets
Folder 9: "Structure and Evolution of the Galactic System", 1960Add to your cart.
"Reprinted from Physics Today, Vol. 13, No. 12, 32-35, December 1960"; "Georgetown Observatory Reprint Series II, No. 5"

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: History],
[Series 3: Student Materials],
[Series 4: Publications],
[Series 5: Data],
[Series 6: Miscellaneous],
[Series 7: Photography],

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