Table Parlor Kaleidoscope
Charles Bush, c. 1870s

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Kaleidoscope detail
Charles G. Bush (1825-1900) (designer)
Table Parlor Kaleidoscope
C.G. Bush & Co., Providence, Rhode Island: c. 1870s
Black cloth over cardboard, brass mounted, mahogany stand
14 inches high
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Having cardboard tubular barrel covered with black pebbled stamped paper, with cylindrical eye piece at one end, and with brass-mounted chamber box on the other end turned by hand with 6-brass spokes. Chamber box containing multi-colored glass twists and rods, cuts of German sheet glass in various forms, and his liquid-filled ampules, patented in 1873 -- all of which are exposed to light through the 3-inch lens, revealing various changing geometric patterns. All canted on an downward angle on a turned mahogany stand with central baluster standard and flared dish base. Relatively few original Bush kaleidoscopes remain in existence and they are among the most sought-after antique kaleidoscopes.

Patented in Scotland in 1816 by Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868), the kaleidoscope was an immediate hit with the public and remained a very popular parlor entertainment throughout the Victorian era. Victorian kaleidoscopes were often high-quality optical instruments intended for adults, not toys.

Charles G. Bush was born in Prussia and began his career in his father's rope manufacturing business. In 1847, he immigrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts and while continuing to run the rope business he pursued his interest in optics: microscopes, telescopes, cameras and kaleidoscopes. In 1873-1874, he obtained three patents for his innovative kaleidoscope designs and for 30 years he was the leading producer of parlor kaleidoscopes in workshops in Boston, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; and Claremont, New Hampshire. His daughter, Mrs. J. P. Piper, and close associate, J. W. Hoard assisted with production. The C.G. Bush & Co. is estimated to have produced somewhat less than 8,000 kaleidoscopes.

Brass Stamped: "C. G. BUSH & CO./ PROV. R.I./ PATENT REISSUED/ NOV. 11, 1873."


"Charles G. Bush." Van Cort Instrument Makers. 2000. (21 October 2002).

"What is a kaleidoscope?" Optical Wonders. 31 July 2002. (21 October 2002).