Astronomy at the Maverick Carter House
Manufacturer/Model: Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. New York
Serial Number: 1020
Optical Design: Refractor
Focal Length: 60” or 1524mm
Focal ratio (f-ratio/f-number): f/15
Aperture/Diameter: 4” or 101.6mm
Power/Magnification: 1.125” Eyepieces #?
Mount Type: German Equatorial
Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. New York
Refractor Telescope Circa 1918
Aline B. Carter (1892-1972) purchased the Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. Refractor Telescope circa 1918 and subsequently installed it in the rooftop observatory built in 1925. The octagonal structure, designed by local San Antonio artisan and friend Ethel Wilson Harris, features a manually rotated and gravity mounted dome affixed to a track and wheels. The original altitude-azimuth tripod mount was replaced with an equatorial mount in August 1945 with the assistance of a young lawyer passerby. Aline’s son, David P. Carter (1921-2013), installed the present fluted column base in a later restoration. The 2017 addition of the parquet wood floor of white oak, maple, and mesquite parallels the first floor entry design.
In 2016 the UTSA Department of Physics & Astronomy and San Antonio League of Sidewalk Astronomers, initiated the full disassembly and restoration of the telescope and mount at the direction of Bryan Tobias and fellow associates. The process included sodablasting and powder coating of the main tube and mount as well as delicate cleaning of the glass lens. Additionally, the removal of the original black anodized rear focuser provided for the exposure of the fine polished brass now seen in protected clear coat.
Carter House Observatory
Design: Ethel & Arthur Harris Circa 1925
Aline B. Carter (1892-1972), Poet Laureate of the State of Texas (1947-1949) and astronomy educator, established this small observatory in the middle of downtown San Antonio with the goal of advancing knowledge of the universe for her students. A 4-inch telescope was installed in the observatory in the 1920s. Students at the Witte Museum were introduced to the Moon and stars in the early 1960’s. Carter’s enthusiasm for the universe was a natural adjunct to her religious spirituality, in addition to her humanitarian activities. She believed that God meant for people to appreciate the wonders of his work. This was emulated by the phrase “When I Consider Thy Heavens O Lord” that was engraved on the interior of the Dome.
Ca. 1930s – 1960s
Aline B. Carter opened pathways to the heavens for all who knew her. Astronomy was Aline’s greatest passion, and she believed strongly our destiny lay within the heavens. Having built an observatory ca. 1925, Aline reached out to the community to share her love of the night sky. In the early years of San Antonio, the daily newspaper would call upon Aline to provide the latest astronomical news. At the Witte Museum and her own rooftop observatory Aline taught astronomy to small groups of young students. On the interior of the observatory dome reads the Psalm 8:3 inscription, “When I Consider Thy Heavens O Lord.” Aline offered instruction solidly based in science, but always the inscription was there to remind us of her greater vision that science was a process of discovering the work of God. Aline’s love of science and nature seen in her art and poetry today originate from these interests spurred by her beloved father, who, for example, instructed his daughter to learn the native trees of Texas blindfolded through the touch of bark and leaves. Students invited to her home found numerous geologic and biologic specimens displayed. Lessons on the universe were taught in her parlor rooms with the aid of the magic lantern projector showing images of the solar system. Several of her students were influenced in part by her classes to pursue a career in the sciences.