Comments on: A Brief History of Sidewalk Astronomy by Jason Tang

I thoroughly enjoyed Jason Tang’s article. It reminded me of several other New York sidewalk astronomers. One was the notable Heinrich “Henry” Goebel, who’s incandescent light bulbs predated Edison’s and landed him in court over Edison’s patent. He was an optician as well and made some telescopes, along with his son, H. Goebel, Jr. In this undated photo, you can see the elder Heinrich on the sidewalk outside their shop in lower Manhattan. “Before the civil war he constructed a telescope 20 feet long with an 18-inch object glass. He mounted it on a wagon provided with a battery and a row of his electric lamps and when business was dull he gave exhibitions in the vicinity of Union Square or the Cooper Institute.” – (Appletons’ Annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the Year 1893, Obituaries, American, pp. 553-4, Goebel, Henry) Another source mentions that he did this around 1859-1860.

In the NY Times blurb attached, the telescope man is Henry Goebels, Sr., out in a park, showing the Sun and stars in 1855. Dr. Tom Williams mentions that another New York sidewalk astronomer was James Wyber, who “was apparently a member of the AAA NY and would take this telescope to the Hayden Planetarium for public exhibition nights. See Fisher, Clyde. The Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History. Popular Astronomy. 1934 May; 42(5):233 which lists James B. Wyber as one of several such volunteers.”

Bart Fried

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