For the inaugural edition of our new feature, Oddities, we present a miniature optical device called a "Stanhope." Stanhopes are glass rods that have a microscopic image at one end and a tiny, but powerful magnifying lens (a Stanhope lens, invented by Lord Charles Stanhope, third Earl of Stanhope) at the other. They were very popular during the Victorian Era and were often sold inside souvenir charms that could be hung from a chain or brooch. These charms came in many different shapes, from binoculars and spyglasses, as seen above, to glass barrels that were sold at Niagara Falls. However, Stanhopes could also be larger and incorporated into items such as knives, Meerschaum pipes, canes, pens, and more.
Our Stanhope is a charm, probably made in France, that contains a very tiny version of The Lord's Prayer, printed in a circle not more than 2mm. in diameter. It is set into an ivory cylinder measuring 1 by 1/4 inches (25 x 6mm), turned to resemble a miniature spyglass or telescope.
Stanhopes continued to be produced into the 1900s, most notably as advertising and promotional items for companies like Anheuser-Busch. They fell out of production in the 1970s but have recently experienced a resurgence on the web with companies creating new Stanhopes from personal photographs.
We hope you have enjoyed learning about these tiny oddities, and we look forward to sharing more curiosities from our collection with you next week. Thank you for reading.