1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

This is the place where collectors can discuss their passion.
Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2020 12:51 am

1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

#1 Post by 404030 » Wed Mar 11, 2020 3:11 am

Hello, I am a young beginner and know absolutely nothing about microscopes besides high school biology basics... and it's been a few years since then. I am currently trying to get into microbiology. My father at some point purchased a vintage AO/Spencer "Buffalo" brand microscope originally purchased for a medical facility. I'd like to identify it and hopefully get it functioning.

Despite it coming with an original certificate of purchase with the catalog and serial numbers written on it, and an original customer receipt with a date, I can't figure out what model it is and why some of the parts don't look like the other similar models I have seen. I tried researching on my own but I don't know enough about microscopes yet, so getting some info about what I have from people who actually know what they're looking at and have some understanding of vintage microscopes would be very helpful.

The closest model I could find matches nearly every part as far as I can tell, except the arm (I barely know the part terminology, sorry if I'm using the wrong words). Most noticeably, there is only one spinning dial (focus?) on the arm right next to the eyepiece parts on my model, but on all the other models I saw that are like this there are 2...?

Here is a collection of photos I took of the microscope and associated accessories hosted on Imgur.

There are various items that came with it from different brands but most of the items are from the same medical supplier, including an instruction manual for microscopy from 1912 titled "Use and Care of the Microscope" by Edward Bausch, copyright Bausch & Lomb Optical Co.? It is basically incomprehensible to me and there are a lot of pages, but if anyone would like to see them I can upload more photos. I just didn't think it would be helpful for identifying the microscope as it's a different brand from the microscope, so I didn't bother including anything besides the covers and inside pages within the image collection I uploaded in the link above.


Catalog no.: 3LSH
Serial no.: 181319
Date on receipt (from Shaw Supply Co., medical supplier): 01/16/1946

- The mirror has a flat side and a concave side.
- The aperture(???) goes from .1 to 1.25.
- There are 3 lenses on a "locking" turret(???), with 16, 4, and 1.8 lenses.
- There are 2 sets of the magnification things that slide into the eyepieces, one 6x set and one 10x set.
- I'm guessing it weighs about 15 pounds but I'm bad at judging weight and don't own a scale.

I don't really know what other details I should provide, please let me know. Does it look familiar to anyone? Thanks for your time!

Posts: 133
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:29 am
Location: Georgia, USA

Re: 1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

#2 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Wed Mar 11, 2020 12:29 pm

1942 Bausch and Lomb Series T Dynoptic, Custom Illumination

Posts: 133
Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:29 am
Location: Georgia, USA

Re: 1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

#3 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Wed Mar 11, 2020 12:36 pm

Hmm, except that you said yours is a model 3, maybe someone here knows the difference.
1942 Bausch and Lomb Series T Dynoptic, Custom Illumination

Posts: 3097
Joined: Fri May 15, 2015 12:15 am

Re: 1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

#4 Post by apochronaut » Wed Mar 11, 2020 1:20 pm

In the early 30's Spencer devised a design to bring the fine focus down low, under the stage. I may be wrong but all microscopes up until this time had a fine focus near to the coarse focus or more traditionally, acting on the arm.

The idea was that because researchers spent long hours at the microscope, allowing them to rest their arm on the bench while controlling the fine focus would reduce fatigue. Normally, the coarse focus is only used to gain focus with the scanning objective and if the objective set is parfocal , one need only use the fine focus from there on in but there is a lot of fine focusing during several hours of viewing especially, live motile subjects.

Out of this, they made 3 research scopes. The 33; a fairly simple monocular scope with low fine focus, was discontuinued during the war, I think. The 3, a much more elaborate small research stand, may have persisted until about 1950. The 5, a heavy, large top of line instrument with many possible accessories continued in production until 1955 at least, when bodies with in base illuminators became necessary and Spencer also was releasing very wide field optics. Older apochromat systems had fairly narrow but very well corrected fields. There was also the model 8, which is a whole other thing; very elaborate, with specific design intentions and very expensive.

While both the 3 and 5 could be equipped with a monocular viewing body, that option was mostly used to carry a camera and almost all of them came out as inclined binocular types. The difference was mainly in the size and stability of the two similar looking stands. Typical weights for the two well equipped bodies were 16-18 lbs. for the 3 and 22-24 for the 5. The 5 also had a very long horseshoe base in order to confer stability when the microscope was rotated backwards into it's horizontal position. The solid brass horseshoe extended well past the stage front edge. The brass #3 horseshoe was short of the stage front edge. There were a number of other differences but basically the #3 was the small research stand and the #5 was the large research stand.

It was commonplace for those on a budget to equip a 3 with standard optics; abbe condenser and achromats, although it was just as common for an achromat condenser, and 3 or 4 apochromats to be fitted to the 3. If one was going to spend the money on a 5's stability however, they usually opted for a fancy stage , 1.3 or 1.4 achromat condenser and apochromats.

Your #3 is in the former category; equipped with standard optics. Based on the serial #, your microscope was made in 1942. Equipped such as yours is, they were fairly common instruments for doctors, labs, military, where someone wanted a slightly more stable instrument than the more ubiquitous # 13, which was very similar but had the fine focus up by the coarse.

Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2020 3:33 pm

Re: 1940s(?) Spencer model identification help

#5 Post by gslab » Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:03 pm

Hi 404030
I have pretty much the same story as you. My experience with scopes is limited to High School, but I've always wanted to learn more about the unseen world. My son thought that he broke the filtering media in his expensive backpacking water-filter and I half joking said "maybe it's time to get that microscope I've always wanted, and figure out if your filter still filters"

I looked on FB Market place and two hours later I was standing on the back yard deck of a retired biologist. I bought her Heavy Black AO Spencer scope on impulse and would love to learn more about it. ( and maybe "hot-rod" it a little with better optics, light source, and filters). Like you, I'm having trouble figuring out what model I have, and what year it was made. The only number I see on it is right under the A/O badge (278049)
Capture 1.JPG
Capture 1.JPG (35.27 KiB) Viewed 1796 times
Capture 2.JPG
Capture 2.JPG (83.56 KiB) Viewed 1796 times

Post Reply