Mid Brunswick Green

“During the greater part of the year the 3-inch transit instrument has been in the hands of the maker, Mr. G. N. Saegmuller. This instrument, while a fairly satisfactory instrument, was not of such superior excellence as the builder expected it would be. He therefore, without any suggestion on my part, offered to rebuild it without expense, which he has done at considerable cost to himself, and it is now a very superior instrument.”

– Prof. Winslow Upton, Report of the Professor of Astronomy and Director of Ladd Observatory, 1895.

transit telescope
The transit telescope as it looked in the 1890s.

During the 2010 restoration of the transit room we went to great lengths to ensure that the colors used were historically accurate. The George N. Saegmuller transit telescope had been painted black at some point. We suspected that this was not original but it is impossible to tell from the black and white archival photographs.

Transit telescope before restoration
The transit room and telescope just before restoration.

We carefully removed the telescope from the mount. A crew of contractors lifted the heavy cast iron base and placed it sideways on a work bench. When we looked at the underside we discovered the original paint. It looked like a shade of Brunswick Green, a mixture of Prussian blue and chrome-yellow.

The underside of the telescope mount.
The underside of the telescope mount.

The color had been commonly used on locomotives; for example, those operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad which called it DGLE, dark green locomotive enamel. It can also be seen on Corliss steam engines. Taking into account the effects of aging we decided that the original shade was Mid Brunswick which is not quite as dark as the Deep Brunswick used on locomotives. We specified British Standard BS381C – 226.

British Railways locomotive
The Owain Glyndŵr locomotive painted in British Railways Brunswick Green livery, 1923.

A contractor with experience in historic preservation (and certified to safely remove lead paint) was hired to restore the mount. Beneath the layers of paint applied over the years was a red lead primer.

telescope mount
The mount after the paint was striped.

Here’s the finished mount on the transit room pier during the restoration project. The wall paint was also carefully selected to match the color originally used. The project won two preservation awards. One from the Providence Preservation Society, another from Preserve Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

telescope mount after restoration
The telescope mount during the final phase of restoration.

The finished telescope mount matches the base of another of our transit telescopes so closely they appear to have been finished from the same can of paint.

Parkinson & Frodsham transit telescope
Parkinson & Frodsham transit telescope, 1838.

The same color was also used on the mount and clock drive of the main equatorial telescope. Today the pier is painted blue, but traces of Mid Brunswick Green can be seen on the inside surfaces. We specified the same paint for the base and details of the clock drive when it was restored in 2012.

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