James White Queen, 1811-1890
Samuel L. Fox, 1834-1912

James W. Queen / J.W. Queen & Company

by Brian Stevenson
last updated December, 2019

At the age of 10, James Queen was apprenticed to John McAllister, Sr. (1753-1830) and John McAllister, Jr. (1786-1877), owners of the oldest optical shop in the USA. The Philadelphia business of McAllister and Son manufactured walking canes, buggy whips, and eyeglasses. John Jr. inherited the business upon his father’s death, forming a partnership with Walter B. Dick (1808-1869) as John McAllister, Jr. and Co. Upon John Jr.’s retirement in 1836, it was bought by his eldest son, William Y. McAllister (1812-1896), Walter Dick, and James W. Queen, who then operated as McAllister & Company.

James Queen left the McAllister businesses in 1853, to form his own optical and scientific instrument supply company. Due to his poor health, Queen brought in Samuel Fox as an equal partner in 1858, forming James W. Queen and Company. During their early years, Queen / Queen & Co. primarily sold microscopes from other manufacturers. The makers of many of those instruments were kept anonymous, although the business did prominently advertise major name brands such as Crouch and Nachet.

Queen retired in 1870, passing ownership of James W. Queen & Co. to Fox, William Walmsley (1830-1905), and Jesse Cheyney (1837-1906). The lives and works of Walmsley and Cheyney are described in separate essays on microscopist.net. Also in 1870, Queen & Co. opened a branch in New York City, managed by Cheyney.

Jesse Cheyney left the partnership in 1875 to open his own shop. Fox and Walmsley formed a new partnership, retaining the Queen name. George S. Woolman (1846-1923) was hired to manage the New York shop, eventually taking it over for himself ca. 1880.

William Walmsley quit the partnership in 1877, initially to be manager of R. & J. Beck’s US office, then forming his own business in 1884.

Samuel Fox continued James W. Queen & Co. on his own. Under his leadership, the business grew substantially. In 1881, Queen became the sole distributor of the “Acme” microscopes that were manufactured by J.W. Sidle & Co. Within a few years, Queen had absorbed Sidle, and the various models of Acme microscopes were built in-house at Queen’s Philadelphia factory. By 1888, that factory had expanded to “a floor extending through a city block and fifty-five feet in width”. An 1888 article in Scientific American noted that Queen produced their microscopes “in lots of from 25 to 50 of a kind; many of the parts are made up by hundreds at a time”. In addition, the factory produced a wide variety of engineering instruments, thermometers, barometers, electrical apparatus, surveying equipment, telescopes, magic lanterns, photographic lenses, and eyeglasses.

In 1891, Queen moved from their old shop at 924 Chestnut Street to a substantially larger building at 1010 Chestnut.

The firm became Queen & Co., Inc. in 1893, with Samuel Fox as President and his son, Edward Brown Fox, as Vice President. A major financial depression, “the Panic of 1893”, hurt Queen’s business, and it was placed into receivership in 1894. After two years of management by James G. Gray, Queen & Co. reorganized, with Gray as President and Samuel Fox as Vice President.

After Samuel Fox died in 1912, the business became the Queen-Gray Co. Gray died in 1925, and the business reformed as the Gray Instrument Company.


1821: J.W. Queen begins working for McAllister

1836: J.W. Queen becomes a partner in McAllister & Co.

1853: J.W. Queen forms his own business

1858: J.W. Queen and S.L. Fox partner as J.W. Queen & Co.

1870: J.W. Queen retires. J.W. Queen & Co. reorganized with S.L. Fox, W.H. Walmsley, and J.S. Cheyney as partners.

1875: J.S. Cheyney leaves the partnership.

1877: W.H. Walmsley leaves the partnership. J.W. Queen & Co. now completely owned by S.L. Fox.

1893: J.W. Queen & Co. is incorporated

1912: J.W. Queen & Co. becomes the Queen-Gray Company.

Figure 1. Microscope slides that were retailed by J.W. Queen & Co. Top Row: The slide on the far left was prepared by John T Norman (1807-1893) of London. Queen’s catalogues listed Norman among their many professional suppliers of slides. The slide next to it, and the three "continental"-sized slides (all in red papers), were all made by W.H. Walmsley, probably when he was a partner in the Queen business. The reverse of one is illustrated, showing Walmsley’s "W" initialed paper. The slide on the right has a label pattern that is very similar to that of several German slide-makers, and was probably imported from that country. The simple labeling on an otherwise bare glass slide is characteristic of slides produced after 1880. Bottom Row: A microphotograph of U.S. President James Garfield (served from March, 1881 until he was assasinated in September, 1881). Images from the author’s collection, or adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 2. ca. 1870s Queen "Universal Household" microscopes. These inexpensive instruments were produced by a contractor(s) in France. Very similar microscopes, with variously customized stands, were also produced for other retailers in the US and the UK. Left image used by permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/hh.htm.


Figure 3. ca. 1870 Queen "Educational" microscope, an imported English bar-limb. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/Queen_Educational_microscope.htm.


Figure 4. ca. 1871 Queen "Student" microscope. Queen’s catalogues stated that this model had been "designed and constructed by us", implying production in the USA. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/Queen_student-microscope.htm.


Figure 5. ca. 1880 Queen "Student" microscope. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/Queen_Student_microscope-222.htm.


Figure 6. ca. 1885 Queen "Acme 3" microscope. Initially manufactured by J.W. Sidle, Queen became the sole distributor for Acme models in 1881, and soon afterward manufactured them all in Queen’s Philadelphia factory. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/acme_No._3_788.htm.


Figure 7. ca. 1887 Queen "Acme 4" microscope. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/acme_No._4_1476.htm.


Figure 8. ca. 1893 Queen "Acme 5" microscope. Adapted with permission from http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/acme_No._5_2215.htm.


Figure 9A. A classroom microscope by J.W. Queen & Co., on the design of Oliver Wendell Holmes. It was introduced in 1875. An instructor can set a view of a specimen, then the microscope is passed from one student to another. The illustrated instrument originally included a lamp mounted onto the base, to illuminate the specimen. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from Images from https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1060257.


Figure 9B. ca. 1885 Queen "Class" microscope. It is identical to the "Classroom" / "Salon" microscope that was made in Germany by Paul Wächter, and was probably imported by Queen from that manufacturer. A microscope slide can be held in place by a spring-loaded clamp, the body tube focused and locked by turning rings, then passed around a classroom or salon. The design ensures that everyone will see exactly the same item.


Figure 10. ca. 1880s slide-ringing turntable, of cast iron and turned brass. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 11. Left, James W. Queen, from an undated carte-de-visite. Right, Samuel L. Fox, from "The School Journal", 1896.


James White Queen was born on July 25, 1811 in Philadelphia. His parents, Allan and Mary White Queen were both immigrants from Ireland. James was baptized in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, and presumably remained a member of that denomination throughout his life: a donation from his widow, Abbie, to the Hope Presbyterian Church funded construction of Philadelphia’s James W. Queen Memorial Chapel.

Contemporary biographers wrote that Queen apprenticed with the McAllisters between the ages of 10 and 21, that is, 1821-1832. He became a partner of McAllister & Co. in 1836.

Queen married Abigail S. Dickey on January 23, 1845. He was then 34, and had been a partner of McAllister & Co. for over 8 years, suggesting that he did not become financially stable until several years after buying into the McAllister business. James and Abigail did not have any children.

An 1896 biographer wrote that, “A few years after establishing himself in business at 924 Chestnut Street, and in his forty-fifth year, Mr. Queen's health, which was never very good, failed, and though he battled along and kept full abreast with the times, he did not seek the aid of a partner until the year 1858, when he invited Mr. Samuel L. Fox, who had been a lad under him at the old establishment and was then twenty-four years of age, to join him as an equal partner. The firm's name then became James W. Queen & Co. The store was one room, sixteen feet wide and forty feet deep, the present store of Queen & Co. being twenty-four feet wide and two hundred and thirty-five feet deep and four stories in height”. Samuel L. Fox was born in Philadelphia on September 26, 1834, son of Joseph Jefferson and Edith Hibberd Fox. I have yet to find a record of Fox’s middle name: even his birth record and gravestone have only “L”.

Upon his retirement in 1870, James Queen published a letter that announced the new partnership of Fox, Cheyney, and Walmsley. It was subsequently included in catalogues of J.W. Queen & Co. for many years afterward (Figure 17):
Philadelphia, April 11, 1870.
On retiring from the business which I established in 1853, and have been conducting at No. 924 Chestnut Street since that year, it gives me pleasure to recommend to my friends and former patrons, my successors, and solicit for them a continuance of the favors so freely bestowed upon myself.
The present firm propose dividing their business into three departments, each partner giving one of those departments his special care and attention.
Samuel L. Fox, my former partner, will devote himself to the Mathematical Department, which will comprise Drawing Instruments, of every description, Surveying Compasses, Engineer’s Transits and Levels, Surveying Chains, Tape Measures, Drawing Papers, and materials of all kinds used by engineers and draughtsmen.
Jesse S. Cheyney, formerly Principal of Friends’ Select School, in this city, will take the Department of Philosophy, which will comprise Magic Lanterns, Oxy-Calcium and Dry-Hydrogen Stereopticons, with Pictures and Illustrations from all countries and upon all scientific subjects; Thermometers, Barometers, Globes, Air Pumps, Electric Machines, Magnetic Apparatus, &c., &c.
William H. Walmsley, well known throughout the country as a Microscopist, and also a preparer of Microscopic Specimens, will take the Department of Optics, which will comprise Spectacles, Microscopes, Microscopic Objects and Accessories, Opera Glasses, Spy Glasses, Telescopes, Ophthalmoscopes, &c., &c.
The new firm will continue to issue Priced and Illustrated Catalogues as follows: Part 1st. Mathematics; Part 2d. Optics; Part 3d. Magic Lanterns and Stereopticons; Part 4th. Philosophical Instruments.
Care will be taken in each department of the business that the instruments manufactured by the firm shall be well made, and accurate for the purposes intended; and that all new instruments and improvements, of both European and American manufacture, shall be introduced with as little delay as possible.
James W. Queen

The new firm promptly expanded. They purchased the building directly behind the Chestnut Street shop, and filled in the space between, creating a single building that spanned the city block. A branch was opened in New York City, managed by Cheyney.

A catalogue, probably from 1874, included dozens of microscope models (Figure 22). Some, such as Queen’s “Popular” and “Student” stands were probably built in-house, while the majority were brought in from English or French manufacturers. Some of those were named, but most were described anonymously. Nonetheless, some of those makers are readily identifiable from the illustrations, such as Buron of Paris, Field of Birmingham, England, and Bausch & Lomb of Rochester, New York.

Queen & Co. won two Silver Medals at the 1874 Franklin Institute Fair, in Philadelphia, for “Eaton's direct vision spectroscope” and “Edgerton's self-condensing gas cylinder”. Asahel K Eaton (1822-1906) was an inventor and professor of optical and chemical studies. Nathaniel Huntley Edgerton (1838-1932) was a Captain of the US Army during the Civil War (1861-1865), manager in the Reading Railroad, then assistant manager with J.W. Queen & Co. Following Jesse Cheyney’s departure from the company in 1875, Edgerton took over management of the philosophical instruments department. He evidently enjoyed a considerable amount of independence, publishing advertisements and exhibiting apparatus under his own name, and describing himself as “successor in philosophical instruments to James W. Queen & Co”. Edgerton left Queen to become a manager for the Braun Electric Light Company during the late 1870s.

In 1875, “James W. Queen & Co. … has been once more dissolved, Mr. Cheyney carrying the department of philosophical apparatus with him to Bond Street, New York city. The remaining partners, S.L. Fox and W.H. Walmsley, retain the microscopical branch of the business at the old stand and under the old name. Microscopists will find G.S. Woolman in charge of their department at the New York store”.

A collection of “mathematical and drawing instruments and microscopes” were exhibited by Queen at the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. A report, “Commended for the variety, accuracy, finish, workmanship, excellence, and cheapness of their instruments for the use of draughtsmen. The microscope stands presented by the exhibitors are convenient and elegant, well finished in every respect, and remarkably cheap. The objectives, forming a series from one and one-half to one-fifth inch, give extremely satisfactory results, and are well adapted to the uses of working microscopists. They are likewise furnished at extremely low prices”.

In March, 1877, William H. Walmsley published this letter: “Having withdrawn from the firm of James W. Queen & Co., of which I have been a member during the past seven years, I would hereby give notice to my personal friends, and to microscopists generally throughout the country (to most of whom I am known, by reputation at least,) that I shall shortly open in American Branch of the London House of R. & J. Beck: and shall be prepared with a large and varied stock in every department of the Science to meet the wants of all. Due notice will be given of the opening, which will take place immediately upon my return from Europe, where I go to make personal selection of goods”.

Samuel Fox then reorganized J.W. Queen and Co. with himself as sole owner.

In 1879, the firm of Sidle and Poalk, operated by John W. Sidle and (probably) James L. Poalk, began manufacturing a microscope of high quality, but low price, which they named the “Acme” (Figures 26 and 27). Poalk was out of the picture by 1880, with Sidle and unnamed backers continuing as Sidle and Co. In November, 1881, Sidle agreed to consign all of his microscopes and accessories to J.W. Queen & Co. (Figure 28). Within a few years, Sidle & Co. had been absorbed into J.W. Queen & Co., all Acme microscopes were manufactured in Queen’s factory, and the line had been expanded to several different models (e.g. Figures 6, 7, 8, and 30).

A report of the 1883 Annual Exhibition at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia stated, “Queen & Co. exhibited a new model 1 ‘Acme’ stand of greatly improved workmanship. The stage is of black glass, and the tube has the ‘broadgauge’ screw, also an adapter for the ‘society’ screw. Their ‘College’ microscope and ‘Amateur’ show good work for a moderate price”.

Queen and Co. scored a major coup in 1888, when they were featured as the cover article for an issue of Scientific American (Figure 33). This world-wide advertising must have been a major boon for business. Some excerpts:

Thirty-five years ago, Mr. James W. Queen, a gentleman of scientific attainments and great business ability, began in the city of Philadelphia a small business in optical and philosophical apparatus. In 1859 (sic) he associated with Mr. Samuel L. Fox, and under their personal supervision and management, the business steadily developed and quickly outstripped similar establishments. In the year 1870 Mr. James W. Queen withdrew, and Mr. S.L. Fox continued and still continues the business under the old title of James W. Queen & Co. Different branches were gradually added until the business became the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the United States or in the world. The progress and development of this business is, without doubt, a fair index of the scientific progress of this country. In time the business became so large that it was found necessary to arrange the different branches under different departments, with a competent man at the head of each department.
There are at present six departments, arranged under the following heads: physical and chemical, engineering, ophthalmic, microscopical, the magic lantern department, and the photographic department. The headquarters of these departments are at 924 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, at the site occupied originally by Mr. Queen. But, the business having enormously outgrown the building, some departments were obliged to seek quarters for apparatus in other buildings in the vicinity of the main offices of the establishment. The factory in which are made a large proportion of the instruments and apparatus sold by Queen & Co. was long ago removed to more commodious quarters, now occupying a floor extending through a city block and fifty-five feet in width.
Although the importation of fine instruments for demonstration and for commercial use is a large and important part of the business of the concern, the manufacture of such instruments has reached proportions which can hardly be appreciated without a visit to the shops.
. . .
The microscopes of the various "Acme" patterns are made here, these being finished up in lots of from 25 to 50 of a kind; many of the parts are made up by hundreds at a time. As the best drawn steel pinions to be found in the market have proved to be of insufficient exactness to make a perfect rack and pinion movement, all the pinions and racks used here in the manufacture of microscopes are cut by fine machinery specially adapted to this work. To secure perfect smoothness in motion, each rack and pinion is "ground in". The making and adjustment of the rack and pinion is one of the most vital points of a microscope; indeed, it is an art of itself.
Engineering instruments are made here in large quantities. Transits are generally made in lots of 25, levels in lots of about 75. By carrying on the manufacture of instruments in large lots, the quality of the work is not only kept up to a high standard, but the workmen acquire such dexterity as to greatly reduce the cost of labor on these instruments.
To secure the quality of brass and bronze castings required in the manufacture of the instruments, it was found necessary to add a brass foundry. Phosphor bronze and aluminum bronze enter largely into the manufacture of many of the engineering and physical instruments.
. . .
Much of the apparatus is of new and original design. The work done in the designing department covers almost every kind of apparatus for the illustration of the laws of physics and chemistry in their various branches. The designing of such instruments requires not only great mechanical ability, but also a thorough knowledge of the laws which the instruments are intended to illustrate, and must therefor be carried on by men of education and special talent.
. . .
The photographic department, although a comparatively new one, shows all the spirit and enterprise which characterizes this establishment, having within five years introduced many articles of value to photographers, the most important of which are the well-known Queen-Francais photographic lenses, indorsed by the highest authorities, and the Queen pantagraph lenses, which are designed to supply a lens of good quality at a reasonable price. This department has also commenced the publication of a magazine entitled ‘Science of Photography’.
It is impossible to fitly describe in detail all departments of a great establishment like this. Each department is a little world in itself, covering many branches, each of which in turn includes many sub-branches. The firm, in addition to the catalogues of their own productions, make a specialty of securing catalogues of all foreign makers of apparatus in different branches of science, and of keeping informed as to the scientific and practical knowledge and apparatus of the day, so that they may properly be considered a bureau of information for those who choose to avail themselves of its advantages

James Queen died on July 12, 1890. His obituary was published in numerous journals and magazines; the following is from Scientific American (including several erroneous dates): “James W. Queen, founder of the house of James W. Queen & Co., Philadelphia, died on July 12, at Cresson, Pa. Mr. Queen was about seventy-eight years old. When a boy Mr. Queen entered the employment of John McAllister, then a well known optician on Chestnut Street. When McAllister retired, Mr. Queen, together with W. Y. McAllister and Walter B. Dick, succeeded to the business under the firm name of McAllister & Co. In 1853 this firm was dissolved and J. W. Queen started at 924 Chestnut Street. In 1855 (sic) Samuel L. Fox was taken into partnership. The firm is now controlled by Samuel L. and Edward B. Fox. In 1868 (sic) Mr. Queen retired from business and traveled extensively, visiting nearly all civilized countries. Until last year he enjoyed excellent health. He leaves a widow, but no children. James W. Queen's reputation was of the highest, and he was noted for his integrity. Mr. Queen was very skillful as a manufacturer of delicate instruments for scientists, surveyors, and chemists, and his reputation in that direction was worldwide. He had for a long time past represented in this country the leading European makes of electrical apparatus for measurements, etc., and had lately gone into the manufacture of such apparatus himself”.

In late 1891, the Queen store moved to 1010 Chestnut Street (Figure 36). This was described as a “three-story building …, extending through to 1010 Sansom (with a full basement, and a fourth story in front) covered 26,000 square feet. Here customers could inspect and even test instruments before deciding to purchase them. The top floors were used for offices and light manufacturing”. In addition, “Queen’s primary factory, at 819-821 Filbert Street, employed seventy-five men and boys. In the early 1890s thy greatly increased their facilities for making special apparatus of all descriptions with such materials as glass, wood, iron, brass, and platinum, ‘according to special designs’, and added facilities for casting aluminum to their brass foundry”.

Anticipating the coming financial crisis, Samuel Fox incorporated the Queen business in 1893, and thereby protected himself from personal liability, “The firm of James W. Queen & Co., consisting of Samuel L. Fox and Edward B. Fox, was, on January 1, dissolved by mutual consent. All accounts due to or due by the said firm will be settled and receipted for by Samuel L. Fox, at 1010 Chestnut street. The stock, fixtures, good will and manufacturing plants belonging to the late firm of James W. Queen & Co., have been purchased by a stock company, organized under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania, which is designated by its charter as Queen & Co., incorporated, manufacturers of scientific instruments, No. 1010 Chestnut street, Philadelphia. The officers of the company are Samuel L. Fox, President; Edward B. Fox, vice-president; F. W. Stanwood, secretary and treasurer; Samuel L. Fox, Edward B. Fox, F. W. Stanwood, Jno. Cordon Cray, William Biddle, Jr., James G. Biddle, directors. The selling department of the company's business is at 1010 Chestnut street, Philadelphia, the manufacturing plants are at 815, 817 and 819 Filbert street, Philadelphia, and at Ardmore, Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania. The instruments manufactured and dealt in by the company are optical instruments of every description, mathematical and surveying instruments, meteorological instruments, physical and electrical instruments, chemical apparatus and chemicals”.

The widespread financial weaknesses of the Panic of 1893 led Queen & Co. into receivership. Although Queen then had assets that, on paper, were double those of its liabilities, the assets had devalued to a fraction of their previous worth.

After surviving the depression under creditor-mandated management, the Queen business re-emerged as an independent corporation in 1896. A publication of that year:
Queen & Co. Reorganized.
The firm again enters a prosperous career.
In August, 1894, misfortune overtook the firm of J.W. Queen & Co. of Philadelphia, and the business had to be placed in the hands of a receiver. Today through the forbearance of the creditors and the good management of the receiver, Mr. J.G. Gray, this old and honored firm is enabled once more to start on a career of prosperity.
This happy outcome of the firm’s difficulties was duly celebrated at a meeting at the manufacturers' club, April 16. The meeting was called to order by A. G. Elliott. who briefly told its purpose and made the presentation of a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to Mr. Gray, who responded in an eloquent address. He thanked them all for their patience in the past, and assured them that but for their forbearance such a result as they were celebrating could never have been achieved. He said that when the troubles overtook the firm the assets were twice the liabilities, which were placed at $184,000. But the appraisers of the court, who reckoned on what the goods would bring at a forced sale, set their value at one-half the assets. In the face of these difficulties the debts were paid and the receivership will soon end and the firm of Queen & Co. will receive nearly $200,000 in assets and a business constantly growing.
Mr. W.H. Rhawn, chairman of the committee of creditors, spoke of the circumstances surrounding the assignment and the faith the committee had in Mr. Gray, which led them to decide to allow the company to continue business, a decision that had proven to have been wise. ‘We could have sold the assets’, he said, ‘for enough to have paid the debts, but that would have wiped Queen & Co. out, and all Philadelphia would feel aggrieved at such a result’. Professor E.J. Houston made a short talk and told of the benefit such a concern as Queen & Co. is to the public at large and to the scientific world in particular.
The house of Queen & Co. was established in 1853 by James W. Queen, who had previously been a member of the firm of McAllister & Co., that firm then consisting of Mr. McAllister, Mr. Dick, and Mr. Queen. Mr. Queen being an omnivorous reader of scientific literature, had made the original firm a scientific center, and on establishing the new house he naturally carried with him the scientific connections which he had formed. He was known to all the scientific men of his day, and they delighted to visit his establishment. Mr. Queen instituted the greatly reduced weight in spectacles, as they are now made. He imported the first forms for grinding spectacle glasses that were used in the United States. He made the first kaleidoscope, the first magic lantern, stereopticon, stereoscope, microscope, and platina points for lightning rods.
A few years after establishing himself in business at 924 Chestnut street Mr. Queen's health failed, but he did not seek the aid of a partner until the year 1858, when he invited Mr. Samuel L. Fox. then 24 years of age, to join him as an equal partner. Mr. Fox is the son of the late Surveyor and City Engineer Joseph Fox, who laid out many of the streets of Philadelphia. The firm's name then became James W. Queen & Co. The store was at 924 Chestnut street, and one room was eighteen feet wide and forty feet deep, the present store of Queen & Co. being twenty-four feet wide and two hundred and thirty-five feet deep and four stories high.
In 1870 Mr. Queen retired from business, selling his interest to Mr. Fox, who continued the firm name of James W. Queen & Co. until the year 1893, when the stock corporation of Queen & Co. was formed. The assignment which the company was obliged to make in 1894 was due to the expansions, made in good judgment by it, in the manufacturing and store plants in 1892, to meet the increasing demand for scientific instruments and to the awful business depression which took place in 1893 over the whole world. The appraised assets of the company at the time of the assignment were about $400,000 and the obligations nearly $180,000.
John G. Gray, the assignee of the company, has so wisely and energetically managed the affairs of the company in the past twenty months that its debts are now paid in full, with interest, and the assignee has turned over to the company its business, with but little change in all its arrangements as they existed prior to the assignment. Mr. Gray has been connected with James W. Queen & Co. and Queen & Co. since 1882. In the reorganization of the offices of the company Mr. Gray assumes the presidency”.

Samuel Fox died on November 6, 1912. The business then reorganized as the Queen-Gray Co., and later as the Gray Instrument Co., surviving until 1952.

Quoting an 1896 speech, “In conclusion, it can be stated that there is no city, town, or village throughout the United States where there cannot be found something which has come from the house of Queen & Co. Their spectacles and eyeglasses are on the noses of thousands of people in all parts of the land, and no college or school of any pretense is without instruments of some description from their factory”.

Figure 12. Undated broadside from McAllister & Co., between 1836 and 1853.


Figure 13. Three microscopes, all engraved "made for McAllister &Co.", and probably manufactured in Paris by Nöel Buron (ca. 1791 - 1856). Images adapted by permission from "http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/large_Buron-McAllister_microscope.htm and "http://www.antique-microscopes.com/photos/McAllister_Co.htm.


Figure 14. The McAllister & Co. shop at 48 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, ca. 1850.


Figure 15. A non-achromatic drum microscope, unsigned, but the case bears a label "J.W. Queen, Optician, 264 Chestnut St., Phila.". This was the address of Queen's shop that he established in 1853. Street renumbering in 1858 changed it to 924 Chestnut. Probably imported from France, possibly manufactured by Nöel Buron, who supplied McAllister (see Figure 13). Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet sale site.


Figure 16. Cover and an inside page from Queen & Company's 1860 catalogue. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from an internet auction site.


Figure 17. James Queen's letter of April 11, 1870, announcing his resignation and formation of a new partnership between Samuel Fox, William Walmsley, and Jesse Cheyney.


Figure 18. (A) September, 1870 advertisement, from "Scientific American". (B) August 12, 1871 advertisement from "The Friends' Intelligencer". Queen's New York shop moved from 5 Dey Street to 535 Broadway between May and August, 1871.


Figure 19. December, 1871 advertisement from "The American Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular".


Figure 20. 1872 advertisement from "The Lens".


Figure 21. 1874 advertisement, from "Schoolday Magazine". Queen moved their New York shop from 535 to 601 Broadway during the middle of 1874.


Figure 22. Cover and excerpts from J.W. Queen & Company's 1874 catalogue:

Figure 22. Cover and excerpts from J.W. Queen & Company's 1874 catalogue. It included some microscopes that were probably produced by Queen or their contractors, but most were acquired wholesale from other manufacturers. Some of those were named, while most were advertised anonymously. Nonetheless, the makers of some can be identified from the images: Number 1650, "the School Microscope" appears to be the simple microscope by R. Field & Son that earned them a Society of Arts Prize, and was probably imported from that English maker. Number 1651-52 is a Bausch & Lomb "Excelsior" microscope. Number 1653 is a "Universal Mounting and Dissecting Microscope" by Field & Son. Numbers 1655, 1656, and 1657 use images that are identical to those in the catalogues of Nöel Buron, of Paris, and were probably acquired from that major French manufacturer.


Figure 23. 1876 advertisements from "Burley's United States Centennial Gazetteer and Guide". Nathaniel Edgerton was Queen's manager of their Philosophical Instruments Department, and evidently enjoyed a considerable amount of independence. He left Queen during the late 1870s, to manage an electrical light company.


Figure 24. 1877 advertisement by N.H. Edgerton. Note that his address was the same as J.W. Queen & Co.'s, 924 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. From "The American Catholic Quarterly Review".


Figure 25. 1880 advertisement, from "The American Monthly Microscopical Journal".


Figure 26. A January, 1880 advertisement from Sidle and Poalk, for their new "Acme" microscope. From "The American Monthly Microscopical Journal". The following year, Queen became the sole distributor for Sidle (see Figure 28). They took over manufacturing Acme stands by the late 1880s.


Figure 27. January, 1880 advertisement from G.S. Woolman, for Sidle and Poalk's "Acme" microscope. Woolman took over management of Queen's New York shop after J.S. Cheyney left in 1875. Shortly afterward, he appears to have operated independently under his own name. From "The American Monthly Microscopical Journal".


Figure 28. J.W. Queen & Company became the sole distributor for Sidle's microscopes in late 1881. This gave Queen an immediate entrance into domestic microscope production, to compete directly with other quality manufacturers such as Spencer and Bausch & Lomb. Within a few years, all "Acme" microscopes were built in Queen's shop, and the line expanded to half a dozen distinct models.


Figure 29. An 1882 illustration and description of the Acme "Class" microscope, manufactured by Sidle & Co. From "The Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society".


Figure 30. An 1887 advertisement, featuring the Acme 4 stand. By this time, Acme microscope line was owned and produced by J.W. Queen & Co. From "The Botanical Gazette".


Figure 31. J.W. Queen & Company's supplementary microscope catalogue from 1880:

Figure 31. Queen's supplementary microscope catalogue from 1880.


Figure 32. Excerpts from J.W. Queen & Co.’s abridged optical catalogue from 1883:

Figure 32. Excerpts from J.W. Queen & Co.’s abridged optical catalogue from 1883.


Figure 33. Cover of the April, 1888 issue of "Scientific American", illustrating scenes from J.W. Queen & Co.'s factory and salerooms. A two-page article inside highlighted the extensive Queen business.


Figure 34. 1896 "Continental II" microscope by Queen & Co. From S.H. Gage "The Microscope and Microscopical Methods", 6th edition.


Figure 35. An undated trade card from J.W. Queen & Co. Adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes.


Figure 36. ca. 1900 picture of the Queen storefront, 1010 Chestnut Street.


Figure 37. 1900 advertisements from "The Microscopical Bulletin and Science News".



Thank you to Allan Wissner for permission to use images from http://www.antique-microscopes.com and for his continued support of the microscopist.net project.



The American Catholic Quarterly Review (1877) Advertisements from N.H. Edgerton, Vol. 2, various issues

American Literary Gazette and Publishers’ Circular (1871) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 17, December issue

The American Monthly Microscopical Journal (1880) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 1

The American Naturalist (1876) James W. Queen & Co., Vol. 10, page 123

Baptism record of James White Queen (1811) Records of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, accessed through ancestry.com

Botanical Gazette (1887) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 12, April issue

Burley's United States Centennial Gazetteer and Guide (1876) pages 818 and 830

Death record of Samuel L. Fox (1912) accessed through ancestry.com

Dental Practitioner (1883) Vol. 1, pages 72-74

Fletcher, Randal B. (2011) Hidden History of Civil War Oregon, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina

Friends’ Intelligencer (1871) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 28, August 1 issue

Gage, Simon H. (1896) The Microscope and Microscopical Methods, 6th edition, Comstock, Ithaca, NY, pages 71 and 78

Harper’s Weekly (1870) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 14, September 10 issue, page 592

Harper’s Weekly (1873) Advertisements from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 17, pages 144 and 160

Hidden City Philadelphia (accessed September, 2019) Top ten significant, vulnerable churches: Hope Presbyterian Church/James W. Queen Memorial Chapel, "https://hiddencityphila.org/2013/04/top-ten-significant-vulnerable-churches/

International Exhibition, 1876: Reports and Awards (1876) Jas. W. Queen & Co., Philadelphia, Pa., U.S., page 174

Journal of the Franklin Institute (1874) Medals awarded, Vol. 69, page 102

Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society(1882) “Acme” class microscope, page 251

J.W. Queen & Company (ca. 1874) Priced and Illustrated Catalogue of Optical Instruments

J.W. Queen & Company (1880) Supplementary Catalogue of New and Second-Hand Microscopes

J.W. Queen & Company (1883) Abridged Catalogue of Optical Instruments

The Lens (1872) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co.

The Microscopical Bulletin and Science News (1900) Advertisements from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 17

The Observer (1893) Queen & Co. incorporated, Vol. 4, page 60

Padgitt, Donald L. (1975) A Short History of the Early American Microscopes, Microscope Publications Ltd., London, pages 106-112, 114, and 121-125

The Queen Catalogues (1993) Norman, San Francisco

Report of the Speeches at the Testimonial Entertainment Given by the Stockholders and Late Creditors of Queen & Co. to John Gordon Gray, together with a Short History of the Business of Queen & Co., 1010 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia (1896) Queen & Co., Philadelphia

The School Journal (1896) Queen & Co. reorganized, Vol. 52, page 530

Schoolday Magazine (1874) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 18, March and November issues

Science (1882) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co. and J.W. Sidle & Co., Vol. 3, page i

Scientific American (1870) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., September 3 issue, page 149

Scientific American (1888) The manufacture of scientific apparatus, Vol. 58, April issue cover and pages 258-259

Scientific American (1890) James W. Queen, Vol. 63, page 101

The Technologist (1871) Advertisement from J.W. Queen & Co., Vol. 2, page 167

US census and other records, accessed through ancestry.com

Walmsley, William H. (1877) Letter, The American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science, Vol. 2, December advertisements