Monday, July 4, 2016

Armed Guard Protecting High Bridge

A Watson, photographer

This is a stereoview card from the mid 19th century before 1850.  It shows an image of the High Bridge taken from the Manhattan side. Note the curious fellow with the rifle in the foreground.  The stereoview is labelled "B. Pike & Son, 518 Broadway".  Benjamin Pike operated an establishment in lower Manhattan from about 1798 to to 1863. He operated as B. Pike & Son from 1831 to 1841, and again from  1843 to 1850. Outside of these years he operated as B. Pike, or B. Pike & Sons.

Benjamin Pike (b. 1777, London– d. 1863, New York) moved to New York at age 21 in 1798, and set up shop as an optician. By the mid 19th century, Pike and his sons were the leading dealers of mathematical, optical, and philosophical instruments in New York City,  making surveying, drafting, navigational, electrical, and astronomical instruments (including telescopes and microscopes) with customers all across the country and internationally. 

Benjamin Jr. (1808–1864) joined his father in business in 1831, trading as Benjamin Pike & Son. In 1841, when Daniel joined the firm, the name changed to Benjamin Pike & Sons. 

It reverted back to Benjamin Pike & Son around 1843, when Benjamin Jr. went into business on his own, competing with his father and operating at 294 Broadway.  In 1850, when Gardner came of age, the firm was again known as Benjamin Pike & Sons. It became Benjamin Pike’s Son in 1867, and remained in business until 1916.

Some instruments with a Pike signature may have been made by craftsmen working for the Pikes, and under their direction. Others were made in workshops and factories elsewhere in the United States, and some were made abroad. Those marked "Warranted" were probably made for the Pikes, but not by them. But the Pikes probably made the several instruments that they displayed at local exhibitions. At the 1837 fair sponsored by the Mechanics’ Institute of New York, Benjamin Pike & Son won a silver medal for their "very superior mountain barometer & theodolite compass." At the 1854 New York State Agricultural Society exhibition, Benjamin Pike Jr. won a silver medal for the "best set of surveyors’ instruments" and a diploma for his theodolite.

last revised 7/31/2016

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