Washington depended on telescopes to monitor British and American troop movements during the Revolution. His wartime correspondence contains frequent requests for and purchases of "[spy] glasses" and "pocket telescopes." In his will, Washington identified this handsome, three-draw, mahogany and brass spyglass by the well-known London optical instrument maker Henry Pyefinch as one "which constituted part of my equipage during the late War," and bequeathed it to his old friend, and cousin, Lawrence Washington. It was later returned to Mount Vernon by Mrs. Jefferson Davis in 1899.


Three-draw graduating telescope made of brass and mahogany. The main mahogany barrel features two collars - one at either end - and one sleeve of brass around its midsection. It also houses the objective lens and a screw-on lens cap that protects the lens from dust and wear. The main barrel also receives the first draw tube that is made of mahogany with brass collars and a brass sleeve around its midsection. The first draw tube receives the second draw tube and has identical brass fittings. The final draw is entirely made of brass. It contains four or five stationary lenses and a flared eyecup with a swivel cover. The eyepiece is signed by the maker: "Pyefinch/ Cornhill. London".


c. 1774-1783




Brass, mahogany, glass


Overall (Length closed, diameter at objective lens end): 2 1/4 in. x 10 1/2 in. (5.72 cm x 26.67 cm)
Overall (Length extended, diameter at eyepiece): 1 1/2 in. x 32 1/2 in. (3.81 cm x 82.55 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Varina Howell Davis, 1899


Engraved on brass eyepiece in script: "Pyefinch/ Cornhill. London".

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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