Henry Fitz: Printer, Locksmith, Photographer, Telescope Maker
Presented by Steven Turner, Curator, Physical Sciences, NMNH
Henry Fitz (1808–1863) was America’s first important commercial telescope maker, but he also made important contributions to the development of American photography.
He had prodigious mechanical skills and enormous energy. As a teenager he learned to be a printer to support a journal that his father edited. He later became a
locksmith and through his twenties he traveled extensively as the representative of a New York lock company. He spent his evenings reading and developed a deep love
of astronomy. During this period he taught himself telescope making and it was his skill in grinding telescope mirrors that led him into a friendship with another
amateur telescope maker, Alexander Wolcott. In 1839 Wolcott learned about Daguerre’s new photographic process and quickly invented a camera that used a concave mirror,
much like a telescope. The following year, when Wolcott decided to make his camera commercially, it was Fitz to whom he turned to make his mirrors. Fitz also became
interested in photography and changed professions again, this time moving to Baltimore to open the city’s first photography studio.
Fitz stayed in Baltimore from 1840 until 1845, spending his days taking photographs and his nights making telescopes. He learned to grind precision telescope lenses
and in 1845, after winning an award for one of his telescopes, he changed careers again – this time moving to New York to open his own telescope shop. Fitz remained
a telescope maker for the rest of