Benjamin Franklin Quimby, 1831 - 1897
Gertrude Ann Quimby, ca. 1844 - after 1880

by Brian Stevenson
last updated December, 2016

B.F. Quimby was a fairly wealthy businessman of Chicago and Philadelphia, USA. He and Gertrude, his first wife, were described as “well-known residents and leaders in aristocratic circles” of Chicago. Both were also amateur scientists and microscopists. About 1870, they moved to Philadelphia. They both joined the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and Benjamin joined the Franklin Institute. After a prolonged, bitter divorce, Banjamin returned to Chicago around 1880, and involved himself with microscopy in that city. He developed a unique slide holder and a microscope lighting device, wrote several articles on preparing specimens for the microscope, and exhibited his microscope slides at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, in Chicago. Gertrude’s whereabouts after 1879 are not known.

Benjamin Quimby’s slides carry labels imprinted with his name and residential city (Figure 1). Those labeled “Philadelphia” date from 1870 - ca. 1880, while those labeled “Chicago” date from between ca. 1880 and 1897. Slides with similarly-patterned labels, and the monogram “G A Q”, are attributable to Gertrude Ann Quimby, and date from the 1870s.

Figure 1. Microscope slides prepared by Benjamin (left) and Gertrude Quimby (right). The upper-left image is adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from


Benjamin Franklin Quimby was born October 13, 1831, in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, USA, son of Stephen and Lydia Quimby. Other birth and death records of the family indicate that there were many children, with several of them dying in infancy. The 1850 US census recorded 18 year-old Benjamin still living in New Hampshire with his parents and two younger sisters.

Benjamin moved to Chicago by 1853, since he was reported in that year to have been a manger of the Young Men’s Association.

The 1860 census recorded 28 year-old Benjamin as living with Jane Reynolds, age 45, and her daughter Gertrude Ann, age 15 (born ca. 1844). Jane was the widow of Eri Reynolds, who had been a significant operator in the meat-packing business. Benjamin’s interactions with the Reynold’s family may have helped establish him in business. He was variously described in records as a “banker” (1860), “packer” of “beef and pork” (1865), and “stock and bond broker” (1867). Probably of significance, his offices were in the Reynold’s Block Buildings.

On August 18, 1863, Benjamin married Gertrude Reynolds. He would then have been about 31, and she about 18. A son, Walter, was born in about 1864. The marriage was tumultuous, and divorce proceedings began in December, 1867. Chicago and the nation relished in the scandal.

In early December, “a suit for divorce (was) brought by Mrs. Gertrude A. Quimby, a young wife 22 years of age, and four years married, against Benjamin F. Quimby, about double his wife’s age, of the firm of Quimby and Hawley, real estate agents and stock-brokers. The charge is adultery with the mother of the plaintiff, on the daughter’s bridal tour and at other times subsequent. Mrs. Quimby is the daughter of the late Eri Reynolds, by his second wife, and is the owner in her own name of very valuable property on Wabash Avenue … The unhappy pair have been separated for two years, the wife having ceased to cohabit with her husband at the first reason to suspect his fidelity; but the bill for divorce was not presented until within a month, when her suspicions had become confirmed. Her husband then attempted to prevent her from leaving the house, and locked her in her own room, but she escaped and took refuge with a friend.” Additionally, Gertrude testified that, before the marriage, she “assured her mother that she did not love (Quimby), and his continued attentions to her had already become exceedingly distasteful and even annoying to her … for more than two years immediately prior to her marriage, her mother annoyed, harassed, and persecuted her almost beyond the power of endurance, in endeavoring to compel her to marry the defendant, when finally, after a paroxysm of anger exhibited by her mother, during which she most violently abused the daughter, the latter did consent and promise that she would be united to him, stating and assuring, at the same time, that she did not love Mr. Quimby, and that she could not promise that she ever would”.

Quimby countered by accusing his wife of adultery with the family’s physician, Dr. Stephen Fuller. Quimby “applied to Deputy Superintendent of Police…who detailed a detective to act in the matter … Meantime, Mrs. Quimby … returned to the city and took a room at the Tremont House. Here she was visited frequently by Fuller … On Monday a state warrant was sworn out for the arrest of Dr. Fuller and Mrs. Quimby, on the charge of adultery … Late in the evening (detective) Elliot saw Fuller enter the hotel from Lake street and proceed directly up stairs. Elliot sent at once to the Central Station for Officer Simons, who quickly arrived. Shortly after midnight, Elliot, in company with Simons, proceeded quietly up stairs to room No. 104. A faint light was seen glimmering within, and the officers felt certain of their duty. They applied their shoulders to the door, and, exerting their utmost force, burst it open. So suddenly was the proceeding, and so silently had they approached, that their presence had not been suspected by the inmates. They had not been mistaken. What they saw convinced them that the suspicions of Mr. Quimby were but well founded … Fuller was arrested … and thrown into jail. After a few days’ imprisonment he was released on filing bonds for his appearance in the sum of $5000 – the security furnished, it is understood, by Mrs. Quimby”.

Further insight on the era’s differing rights and expectations of men and women and husbands and wives comes from the January 8, 1868, Chicago Tribune, “As usual, there were two sides to the gossiping – one set holding that the intervention of the police was unjustifiable, and that Mr. Quimby ought not to have allowed his wife to be taken to the Armory (jail) under any circumstances - the other maintaining that Mrs. Quimby had no right to complain, after having brought a criminal charge against her husband and mother, of which she herself was guilty”.

Remarkably, the Quimby divorce was not finalized, and Benjamin and Gertrude remained married (and together to varying extents) for another 10 or so years.

The 1870 census records Benjamin, Gertrude and their son, Walter, living on 2019 Green Street, Philadelphia. City directories listed Benjamin’s employment as “treasurer” and “sewing machines”. An 1877 advertisement listed Gertrude as the contact agent for sales of knitting machines (Figure 2). The address, 157 North Eighth Street, was also recorded in several documents as Benjamin’s place of business.

Figure 2. 1877 advertisement for knitting machines, from ‘The American Agriculturist’. Gertrude Quimby was listed as the contact agent.


Benjamin was elected to membership in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia on April 25, 1871. Gertrude became a member on May 30, 1876, indicating that the couple shared scientific hobbies. Considering that point, and their evident business collaboration, it appears that the early- to mid-1870s were relatively peaceful times in the Quimby household.

In addition to the Academy, Benjamin was a member of the Fairmount Microscopical Society (Philadelphia) and the Franklin Institute, and a corresponding member of the Memphis (Tennessee) Microscopical Society. In 1874, the Memphis Society received, “six slides from B.F. Quimby, of Philadelphia, two being crystals of salicine, one crystals of phloridzin, one crystals of chloride of copper, one of fresh-water algae from the Adirodacks, &c.”.

Other than her membership in the Academy of Natural Sciences, no records have been located regarding Gertrude as a scientist.

Turmoil returned to the Quimbys in the late 1870s, and scandal followed as Benjamin and Gertrude fought publicly and sued each other for divorce.

The Times (Philadelphia) reported on February 28, 1878, “Mr. B.F. Quimby had a hearing before Alderman Shane yesterday, charged on the oath of his wife, Gertrude, a fancifully-attired lady, with using violent and abusive language towards her at his store, 157 North Eighth street, and threatening her with bodily harm. Mr. Quimby, a respectable-looking gentleman, acted as counsel in his own behalf, and sought to establish, by interrogating his wife during her testimony, that the difficulty had been provoked by her improper intimacy with a Colonel Russell, who, while ill at the home of the Quimbys, 1607 Filbert street, was attended by Mrs. Quimby. The lady indignantly denied the accusation of infidelity, and the question being renewed in several forms Mr. W.H. Ruddiman, counsel for Mrs. Quimby, appealed to the 'Squire and the queries were ruled out. Mr. Ruddiman declared that Mr. Quimby was a mere trespasser upon his wife's bounty and she stated that at various times she had advanced her husband, in all, $47,000 to extricate himself from business difficulties. Mr. Quimby, on the other hand, charged that having assigned some of his estate to her he had been unable to secure its return. Mrs. Quimby insinuated also that her husband wanted to kill her in order to get the property into other hands. 'Squire Shane was obliged to interpose several times to prevent the acrimonious triangular discussion, all of which the spectators appeared to enjoy. Finally the Alderman complied with Counselor Ruddiman's request and required Mr. Quimby to enter security of $1,000 ‘to answer at the next term of court and in the meantime to keep the peace towards all good citizens and especially Mrs. Quimby, and to remain away from 1607 Filbert street’. Upon hearing this Mr. Quimby asked of the 'Squire, ‘Am I to be kept out of my own house, for which I hold the deeds? Why, I never heard of such a thing. I shall have to sleep in the street tonight, I suppose’. The Alderman answered that he saw no other alternative, but that Mr. Quimby could get his remedy in a writ of habeas corpus”.

In the USA, one can sue for divorce only in a state in which one lives or has lived. Benjamin filed for divorce during 1878 in Pennsylvania, the state in which Philadelphia is located. Strangely, Gertrude sued for divorce in New York in 1879, and it was evidently granted. However, Benjamin filed a motion later that year to void the decision, alleging that New York did not have the authority. It appears that he was also unaware of the New York divorce case when it happened. From The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York City), December 1, 1879, “A motion was noticed for this morning in Special Term of the Supreme Court, to vacate the judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the suit for absolute divorce of Gertrude A. Quimby against Benjamin F. Quimby. The suit was begun in Queens County in 1879, and on January 10 the plaintiff got an order to serve the summons by publication. The affidavit of the plaintiff used on the application for the order, stated that defendant resided in Baltimore, and that J.F. Hardy and Wm. Bell informed her of that fact. The summons was published in two newspapers in Queens County. On April 19, 1879, the cause was sent to a referee; the defendant not appearing, the referee's report was confirmed and a decree entered. Affidavits prepared for the motion on behalf of the defendant state that before the referee on May 1, plaintiff testified that she resided in New York City a short time during March and April 1870, having removed thither from Chicago, and that subsequently she removed to Philadelphia. She testified also that she had resided at the Beaconsfleld House, New York, since July, 1878, and that Hardy and Bell told her that her husband was residing in Baltimore. She further swore, and alleged, that no other action for divorce between her and her husband was pending. The affidavits also state that Henry Walton, of Stapleton, S.I., testified that he knew defendant and to an act of adultery committed by him in Philadelphia, in September 10, 1878. Walton swore, as alleged, that he saw defendant in Philadelphia in January, 1878. Bell testified, as sworn to in the affidavit, that plaintiff had resided at the Beaconsfleld House, New York, since July, 1878. Defendant swears that he never committed the adultery as alleged; that he never lived in Baltimore; that neither he nor the plaintiff ever lived in the State of New York; that a suit for divorce has been pending In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, since August, 1878, and that he never knew Henry Walton, Wm. Bell or J. Hardy. Nicholas J. Meyer, Henry O. Parker, James M. Wanzer and Frank R. Spear swear that in January, 1870, defendant resided in Chicago. David A. Stevens swears that neither plaintiff nor defendant resided in New York in March, 1870. Henry Watts, proprietor of the Beaconsfield House, swears that plaintiff never lived in his house. John C. Egley and Jane K. Reynolds, plaintiff's mother, swear that plaintiff's residence has been at Philadelphia for years past. Defendant's counsel also had in his possession an exemplified copy of the record of the suit for divorce commenced in Philadelphia, August 1878, and pending. Defendant swears that plaintiff never had residence in Queens County, or defendant his residence in the State of New York, and that he was served by mailing a copy of the summons addressed to him in Baltimore. Defendant claims that the divorce was procured by fraud, misrepresentation and perjury. On the motion's being brought on, counsel for plaintiff asked for a postponement on the ground that he had just been retained by the attorney, and was not fully acquainted with the facts, the plaintiff was a resident of Colorado and they required time to communicate with her. Counsel for defendant said that plaintiff was served with the papers in Colorado, on November 12. Judge Gilbert adjourned the motion for two weeks, on condition that plaintiff paid $10 costs”.

At least one of the divorce suits was eventually decided. Benjamin moved back to Chicago, and was listed as divorced in the 1880 U.S. census. Gertrude’s fate is not known. Their son, Walter, was never heard from again.

Benjamin re-married on July 11, 1882, to Rebecca Thomas, a widow and mother of two girls. Benjamin and Rebecca had both boarded at the same house during the 1880 census. This marriage seems to have been peaceful, with only positive news items appearing in society columns. The 1889 directory of Hyde Park listed Benjamin as “salesman”, presumably the same types of work as previously.

In Chicago, Benjamin joined the State Microscopical Society of Illinois. When that society became a section of the Chicago Academy of Sciences in 1893, Quimby served as a Vice President.

Quimby published a pair of articles on slide-making during 1887, which are reproduced at the end of this essay. A notable feature he described was the “Quimby Mounting Cabinet” (Figure 3). In his words, “The mounting and dissecting box, shown by cut herewith, is not an essential implement in the processes to be described, but is most convenient, and much better work may be done with it. With the top removed, it is, for dissecting purposes, or any microscopical preparation in which a strong light is desired - and by this device the light is obtained by reflection from the mirror inside, which illuminates the plate-glass, ground on the under side to prevent an unpleasant glare to the eyes of the operator. A shallow glass dish containing the object of preparation is placed on the glass plate, and a very satisfactory under illumination is obtained. With the top restored to its position it is then used for mounting purposes, affording an under illuminated and raised rest for the slip on which the object may be better seen and manipulated”. The San Francisco Microscopical Society was given one of these devices that same year, reporting, “An ingenious device, called the ‘Quimby Mounting Cabinet’, was received for inspection from the society's indefatigable corresponding member, E.H. Griffith. Its purpose is to facilitate the illumination of objects by transmitted light, during the process of mounting, and this object is very satisfactorily attained by the apparatus referred to, both by daylight and artificial light”.

Figure 3. The “Quimby Mounting Cabinet”, 1886, a device to aid microscope slide-making. Quimby’s original figure legend: “The cut represents a sectional view of the mounting box: e is the box, 6 ½ x 6 ½ inches, and 4 ½ inches in height, constructed of rosewood: c is the cover, to which is attached b, the slide rest with centering spot o. This is removable. Beneath is the ground glass plate, a, f. At d is a mirror set at about 45 deg. angle, reflecting the light from the opening at its lowest end (the side is here wanting) up through a to o”. Quimby’s description of its uses are in the text, above, and in his two-part article on slide-making, reproduced at the end of this essay.


The above-mentioned Ezra Hollis Griffith (1838-1894) was the inventor of the Griffith “Club” microscope (Figure 5). Quimby was a devotee of that instrument, and presumably knew Griffith after the latter moved to Chicago. Quimby invented two devices specifically for the Club microscope, and sold at least one of them through the mail (Figure 4). I could not find pictures of either item.

From The Microscope, 1886, “Mr. B.F. Quimby of Chicago, has invented a slide carrier which is particularly adapted to the Griffith club microscope, but may be used with any instrument having straight stage clips. This carrier is exceedingly simple in its construction, - consisting of two thin pieces of wood rather larger than a slide, with a round hole piercing their centre. Narrow strips of sufficient thickness are fastened between the top and bottom pieces, dividing the inter-space into three compartments, - into the middle of which a square  of blue glass may be inserted, while the end spaces are for the clips. In the upper surface of the carrier, behind, is a ridge to prevent the slide from slipping down while the microscope is at an angle. We have tried this convenient little device on one of Mr. Griffiths' instruments, and find that it is a decided addition. Mr. Quimby states that he has found the carrier of special use in holding a Wenham's compressor, which is not easily managed with the clips alone. This universal carrier will be appreciated by microscopists”.

Figure 4. An 1887 advertisement from B.F. Quimby for his slide carrier.


From The Microscope, 1887, “Mr. B.F. Quimby, of Chicago, whose universal slide carrier we noticed some time ago, has devised another useful appliance in the shape of an ‘illuminator’ or lamp shade, to be used with the Griffith Club microscope. This consists of three pasteboard cylinders accurately fitted one within the other - the external revolving on the middle, the inner being removable. All three cylinders are pierced anteriorly by a round aperture; the middle piece having also a slot. With the inner cylinder removed, the external piece may be twisted one way or the other, and the pencil of light coming through the opening thus regulated; or, in the examination of diatoms, the slot may be used. The inner surface of the second cylinder is white, but for the convenience of those who prefer a black background, the inside of the third cylinder is of that color, and this may be slipped into the illuminator whenever a dark surface is required. The middle cylinder is surrounded at its lower margin with a brass collar to which a short tube is attached. Into this tube fits the lamp rod, while the illuminator rests on the rod controlling the light. It is altogether an ingenious and useful device”.

Quimby’s testimonial to the Griffith Club microscope, 1891: “Editor, The Microscope,

Your July editorial on ‘Travelling Stands’ inspires some further suggestions coming from experience. For several years I had one of those largest imposing ‘first-class stands’ and two or three kinds of pocket microscopes. After making this investment I became acquainted with the late Dr. Joseph Leidy, whose unsurpassed work on the Rhizopods was then in process, with the aid of a microscopical outfit not worth fifty dollars. His obvious wisdom in respect to apparatus made me ashamed of my extravagance. I sold the imposing stand and invested again in a way to gain the double advantage of a travelling stand which also serves all practical needs for work at home. For the past seven years I have used in this double capacity the Griffith Club microscope only and deem it the nude mecum par excellence. Its compactness is a triumph of ingenuity, and it unfolds for more varied uses than any other stand I have seen.

Why does it not supply the need as you describe, and not merely that, but all other uses for a stand? For vacation use, the heavy turn-table foot, which gives this stand such a steady base at home, may be omitted. Thus the whole weight of stand and case is reduced to four pounds. All your requisites named cannot be combined much lighter.

Instead of the foot, a pedestal is furnished, having a screw at its lower end, by which the stand may be fastened to a stump or log. In camp, a stake may be driven in the ground, inside the tent, and the pedestal screwed to the top of the stake, to which may also be fastened the lamp attachment of the microscope.

At home, for my working purposes, the pedestal is screwed in to the edge of my table. Thus the microscope is conveniently at hand, yet out of the way of my work, and so secure that it may not be upset. The heavy foot of the stand removed and set on a steel point, makes an admirable turn-table, its weight giving it such momentum that, with one impulse, it revolves for a long time. Clips, usually so objectionable, are not so on this stand, being fixed to a bar, acted on by springs, so that they may be turned back, leaving the stage clear. Screws adjust the springs to regulate pressure on the slides.

The glass stage is ample for all conceivable use, and being round gives a better opportunity to manipulate the slides than if square.

The fine adjustment is admirable in its action and not open to the objection of most other methods in which the action runs out, requiring readjustment.

The draw tube arrangement makes it suited to the long English or short German notions. The sub-stage ring enables the use of needed accessories, the Wenham parabola, Abbe condenser and the Polariscope. The ring removed, one may have extreme oblique illumination. The swinging and extension mirror bar affords various methods of illumination above and below the stage.

The easy portability of the stand serves my purpose in every way. I rarely fail to take it to the meetings of our Illinois State Microscopical Society, where it has been peculiarly useful. With its ingenious lamp attachment, it may be handed around among the members for the examination of slides illustrating the subject under consideration. No other stand is so service-able in this respect; hence, it has been to our meetings many times more than any other kind. I regret the fact that it is often the only one there, which may be because it is always expected and best serves every purpose.

As to its expense, so much merit cannot be afforded at the cost of the cheapest stands; but in view of its versatility, and that it is all any practical microscopist needs, it is an economical investment.

I have been impelled to write this partly because ‘Amateur’, in his Encyclopedia of American Microscopes, has ignored the existence of this stand, which was surprising, in that the Griffith is peculiarly the exponent of most of the merits he has praised in other stands, and so far as I can now recall, has none of the demerits which he condemned.

This communication is only intended to do some justice to a stand which did not deserve to be omitted in the general ‘round-up’.

‘Amateur’s’ praise of Mr. Bulloch’s stands especially was richly deserved. As a friend of Mr. Bulloch, I have been much pleased that the great merits of his stands received such recognition”.

Figure 5. A Griffith “Club” microscope. Images adapted by permission from


Quimby exhibited “microscopical slides of insects” at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Quimby’s slide-making expertise was acknowledged in an 1896 article by F. Dienelt, “I commenced to mount, guided by a short description of the process in Queen's Catalogue, and selected benzole balsam because it could be used without heat. I have never used pure balsam, but find that some of my friends who are fond of fighting air bubbles use the Simon pure stuff yet. My friend, Mr. B.F. Quimby, of Chicago, to whom I am much indebted for help in various ways, drew my attention to the fact that benzole balsam would turn dark in time, and advised me to use chloroform balsam. I have a number of Mr. Q.'s chloroform mounts at least ten year old, that are as clear yet as can be; he never cements his mounts either. So I sent for chloroform balsam and to the leading firm at that. Had carefully prepared a lot of various spiders, time being no object, and into the chloroform they went, every mount spoiled in less than a week by absorbing moisture, turned cloudy. I expressed my feelings strongly when I made the discovery. Mrs. Dienelt happened to come into the den and wondered why everything had a bluish tint. I could have explained it to her but pretended that I could not see the sulphuric tints but I did and I did. From this we learn that Mr. Q., who prepared his own balsam, was all right, and that leading firms at times sent out stuff only fit to be shied at stray cats”.

Benjamin Quimby died July 17, 1897, in Chicago. He left his estate to wife Rebecca and his son Walter. As noted above, Walter was never located.


Insect Preparations
by B.F. Quimby
(Originally appeared in The Microscope, 1887)

Some preliminary suggestions may be of value as to collecting. Small wide-mouth bottles are most convenient. To avoid injury to their more delicate parts, put only a few insects in each bottle. If considerable time must elapse before preparation, gather them in a saturated solution of salt in water, which will preserve them a long time, with little depreciation in condition; but when used they should be immersed in fresh water for an hour or so, to remove the salt. It is better, however, to prepare the fresh insects; but many kinds will improve their conditions for the purpose by a few days’ starvation. A wide-mouth bottle, with gauze secured over the opening, is a good receptacle for this purpose. The killing may be humanely done, as some atonement for the starving, by moistening the gauze with chloroform, covering it so that the fumes must enter the bottle. For the subsequent operations the following outfit will be required:



Alcohol, Canada balsam, chloroform, liquor potassae, oil of cloves and distilled water. Absolute alcohol is the best, but is not so readily obtained, and in using will not long remain absolute. The ordinary 94 per cent, will serve. Canada balsam, prepared with chloroform, is the most suitable, as it does not require heat in use and hardens sooner. To prepare this, put the pure balsam in a low, broad bottle and cover the top with paper to exclude dust, then put the bottle in some warm place, avoiding much heat, which will discolor the balsam. When quite hard dissolve with chloroform, making it thin enough to filter. After filtering it will soon come, by evaporation, to a proper consistency, to maintain which will require that chloroform be occasionally added. A good method of keeping balsam is in one of the bottles described for the purpose in W.H. Walmsley & Co.'s catalogue.

In using balsam the writer has found no better way than with an ordinary medicine dropper, with bent point. Press the rubber top, and place the point in the balsam, which will fill the tube, when pressure is removed; the balsam may then be very delicately applied by slight pressure. After using, press out the balsam and put the dropper in place of the cork in an ordinary narrow-mouth ounce bottle containing turpentine. By this means the dropper remains clean. Press out the turpentine carefully before again using.

The liquor potassae should be of officinal strength, viz.: 1 oz. (Troy) fused caustic potassa and 1 pint distilled water. The oil of cloves should be the best. When old it becomes too dark, and when colorless it is generally impure. The proper color is that of pale sherry. Distilled water is of course the best, but ordinary clear water will answer. All the fluids named should be filtered. If ordinary filter-paper is used, run the fluid through two or three times, or some of the fiber of the paper will be found in the result. Glass wool is a very good filtering material and is cheap. Crowd a wad of this into the tube of a small glass funnel and allow the fluid to filter through it.

Three glass jars, about four inches high, and holding about one-half pint each, are most suitable for holding the alcohol, turpentine, and water when in use in the process to be referred to. These should have close fitting stoppers to exclude dust, and in the case of alcohol, to avoid as much as possible the lowering of its proof. The miniature section jars which are sold by druggists in sets of three, holding each about two fluid-ounces, will be found most convenient for many uses.



A pair of very delicate tweezers, such as are sold for microscopical purposes. Four of the best red-sable brushes, with the hair about one-fourth inch long. Common camel-hair brushes do not serve so well, as they usually shed hair and are not stiff enough.

A fine needle, which has been heated in an alcohol flame, and hammered thin towards the pointed end, which should be rounded on a whetstone. Set this needle in the small end of a handle cut from one of the sable brushes, which are sold with handles twice as long as are needed for our purposes.

Some pieces of glass, which may be made by cutting in two the ordinary 3x1 inch slips.

Clips made of spring-brass wire, a little over 1/32 of an inch in diameter, which can easily be made with a pair of pliers. Equivalent clips may sometimes be bought of opticians.

The mounting and dissecting box, shown by cut herewith, is not an essential implement in the processes to be described, but is most convenient, and much better work may be done with it. With the top removed, it is, for dissecting purposes, or any microscopical preparation in which a strong light is desired - and by this device the light is obtained by reflection from the mirror inside, which illuminates the plate-glass, ground on the under side to prevent an unpleasant glare to the eyes of the operator. A shallow glass dish containing the object of preparation is placed on the glass plate, and a very satisfactory under illumination is obtained. With the top restored to its position it is then used for mounting purposes, affording an under illuminated and raised rest for the slip on which the object may be better seen and manipulated. Its use will be further described with the processes as detailed.

Another device as a rest for the slip in mounting may be easily made. To the center of a piece of board 8x8 inches, glue flatwise a block l x 1 ½ x 3 ½ inches. Paste white paper on the top of the block. Then placing a glass slip on the paper, put six pins or short pieces of wire in the block about the slip, to keep it in place. The pins should not project more than 1/32 of an inch. A ring as a guide to the center may be made by placing a nickel in proper position on the paper and marking round it with a pencil.



Place the object for a few minutes in alcohol, then transfer to the liquor potassae contained in one of the miniature section jars, or in a shallow ointment jar. This is done to soften and bleach the hard and opaque parts of the insect. The time required will usually be about one week, though some more delicate kinds require only a few hours, and for these it will be best to reduce the strength of the solution. Some obstinate and dense specimens may require even a month in this process. When the liquor becomes much discolored, put the objects in a fresh supply.

It is best not to carry the softening and bleaching process any farther than is absolutely necessary, and this can only be learned by experience. The process at the best will often destroy the tracheal system of the insect, which is a most interesting part. It is better to depend upon the subsequent processes for the transparency desired. Some insects do not require the use of liquor potassae.

In using the mounting and dissecting box, remove the top part and place a shallow glass dish, three or four inches in diameter, on the ground-glass plate. The glass dishes used for watch parts by watch-repairers are very convenient. Having water in the dish with pliers remove the insect from the liquor potassae to the water. Adjust the box in relation to the light so that it may best under illuminate the object by reflection from the mirror within the box. All needed magnification of the object may be obtained by using a watch-maker's eye-glass. The kind having a spring to pass round the back of the head, to hold the glass in position is best for the purpose. Having the insect first on its back under the water, take two of the small brushes, one in each hand, using one brush to hold the insect while with the other the wings, legs and antennae are brushed out so as least to interfere with the process of removing the contents of the abdomen; which is done by gently pressing the body with the brush, to which is given a rolling movement, always in the direction from the head of the insect. Sometimes it may be necessary to make a small opening in the back of the insect near the extremity of the abdomen. On the thoroughness with which this cleansing is done will depend mainly the perfection of the mount. Have care in this process to avoid disturbing the wings and legs of the insect. The writer has sometimes used to advantage a hypodermic syringe, after cleansing as much as possible by the method stated. Filling the syringe with water, insert its point in the back of the insect and press the water slowly through the abdomen several times, thus washing out what previously could not be pressed out. Now float the insect on a slip of glass and procure fresh water, to which return the insect. Then brush carefully all the parts with an outward movement as to the body and in a direction from the head, and on both sides. In turning the object in the water, float it on a slip of glass and cover with another slip. This will prevent disturbing the position of the parts.

At last place the parts in the position desired, remove from the water and cover carefully with another slip. Then apply one of the brass spring-clips. By this device the insect is more evenly flattened by the constant pressure, and the spring is much more conveniently used than the fine wire sometimes recommended for fastening.

With some delicate objects the pressure of the spring may have too crushing an effect, to avoid which tie a piece of fine wire about each end of one of the slips of glass, thus preventing their approaching too closely. If the mounting and dissecting box is not used, the process of cleaning may be best done in a shallow white dish, with the most light possible to obtain in any ordinary way.

The insect remaining between the slips of glass is then to be immersed for a day or two in water. Then returning it to the water in the glass dish and removing it, under water, from the glass slips, carefully brush on both sides, for this is the final process in cleansing. Adjusting the parts and returning it to the slips of glass immerse in alcohol for one day. and then transfer to turpentine, where it should remain several days, until all the appearance of water about the insect is removed. This may be facilitated by occasionally opening the slips of glass and brushing the object The longer it remains in turpentine the more transparent it will become, and in that respect may go too far for the best effect. This process may be hastened, and to great advantage with many objects, by heating the turpentine during the operation, by placing a vessel containing the object in contact with a can filled with boiling water. For many purposes in microscopical work, a can one foot long, three inches thick and six inches wide, with its nozzle on one of its broad sides at the end, will be found useful in furnishing a moderately hot surface. In using, it may be placed on a small box with one end of the can projecting over an alcohol lamp, or Bunsen burner, by which the water in the can is heated. Care should be taken to cover the turpentine, to prevent its fumes from coming in contact with the flame. A tin cover of a candy jar will serve. From the turpentine the insect, removed from the glass slips, should be put in oil of cloves, where it may remain for not less than one day, until wanted for mounting. Hardened by the alcohol, the parts will not readily change position with the exception of the membraneous wings, which all through the process must be managed with great care.

The most delicate of insect wings will usually become so softened by the liquor potassae as to resist the most careful endeavor at arrangement.

The principle involved, in passing the object through the various fluids, is that each is miscible with the succeeding one, and the last with Canada balsam, its final medium in mounting. The alcohol hardens the tissues, on which the oil of cloves and turpentine act as clearing agents, making the insect transparent by their high index of refraction.

…Some experiments with the hypodermic syringe have shown its use in the arrangement of the membraneous wings which often become so twisted that they cannot be brushed out and are very liable to be broken in the attempt. Removing the insect on the glass slip from the water, the syringe may then be used in throwing streams over and under the wings; thus untwisting and spreading them out, using the brushes at the same time: one in holding the insect in position and the other to aid in the adjustment.

An effective way to direct a stream under a wing is to pass the needle under the insect so that the orifice may be where the wing joins the body, thus the out-flow will be lengthways of the wing. The syringe may be made very useful in other ways in the process of cleaning.



Remove the insect from the oil of cloves and place it in turpentine contained in a solid watch-glass. Our purpose in doing this is to remove the surplus of cloves, which will interfere with the subsequent hardening of the balsam. Place the watch-glass on the plate-glass of the dissecting-box illuminated and examine the insect carefully. If any dirt is found it may sometimes be removed, if on the outside, by brushing. Use two of the brushes not used in previous cleaning processes. To make sure as to the condition of the insect, place the watch glass on the stage of the microscope and examine.

Having ready a glass slip and cover-glass of suitable size, both carefully cleaned, adjust the glass of the mounting-box placed in such position that the under illumination may be best reflected into the cupola-like top bearing a slip of glass having upon it a colored centering ring, on which place the slip to be used for mounting the insect.

Then using the medium-dropper, put only enough Canada balsam on the center of the slip to spread out under the whole insect when placed in position. With pliers draw the insect carefully out at one side of the watch-glass, draining off the turpentine and avoiding as much as possible deranging the wings. Then with care drop the insect on the balsam prepared on the slip. Let the contact be at one end of the insect, lowering gradually to avoid making bubbles which if underneath, cannot easily be removed. Rather than attempting their removal, return the object to the turpentine and repeat the process with more care. If any arrangement of the parts may be required, use the mounting pair of brushes, dipping them at first and occasionally after in the turpentine to avoid creating bubbles which however may, if on the surface, be readily broken by using the point of a needle heated in an alcohol flame. Then apply more balsam over the insect, wipe the under side of the cover glass, held with the pliers in the turpentine, draining off as much as will, then place the cover-glass over the insect, having regard to the centering ring. It must be lowered first at one edge of the cover-glass and slowly to avoid making bubbles which are not so likely to appear if the balsam is of proper consistency. The moistening of the cover glass also obviates that tendency. It will now be usually found necessary to make some readjustment of the parts or position of the insect. This is often a most trying process; but may be accomplished with the flattened needle referred to. Holding the pliers perpendicularly, rest on the slip the points spread to span the edges of the cover-glass to hold it in place. Then moistening the needle in turpentine, insert it under the cover-glass and move the insect as desired. For this process the great advantage of having the slip raised on the cupola of the mounting-box with under illumination will be appreciated. The utmost tenderness of movement with the needle is required to avoid injury to the delicate parts and creating those old enemies the bubbles. We may now press the cover down and remove most of the surplus balsam by the suction of the medium-dropper.

The previous processes have so flattened the insect that pressure by weight or slip on the cover will not usually be needed.

The troublesome adjustment with the needle under the cover may be avoided if the insect when placed on the slip adheres closely in all its parts, without tendency of the wings to curl or other parts to project out of the balsam. It may, after proper arrangement, be put aside under some cover, to exclude dust, until the balsam has so hardened that fresh balsam may be applied and the cover-glass put on without disturbing the arrangement.

Pure benzol is in some respects better than turpentine in the mounting work; but is expensive. As good results can probably be had with turpentine.

The slide may now be put away for the balsam to dry and harden, which may be much accelerated by moderate heat. For this purpose the drying-box described in the catalogue of W.H. Walmsley & Co. is unsurpassed.

In drying, air spaces will often appear at the edge of the cover glass. Applying balsam will fill these spaces.

Without heat, three or four weeks must elapse before it will be safe to clean the slip. Most of the surplus balsam may be removed with a knife blade heated in an alcohol flame. Chloroform on a handkerchief will quickly remove the remainder; but the chloroform softens the balsam about the edge of the cover, therefore do not dwell long in this process, but put the slip away to reharden, after which make a final cleaning by the use of soap suds and a soft brush, rinsing after with water and wiping with a handkerchief.

The completion of an insect mount may be hastened by cleaning off the balsam two or three days after mounting, using chloroform with great care as to disturbing the cover-glass, then placing the slip in a turn table, apply several coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol about the cover-glass, giving time for each coat to dry, which it will quickly do.

This of itself will be a nice finish; but if desired the shellac ring may be covered with white zinc cement in the usual way. On this circle fine colored lines may be made with a small brush, using Canada balsam which has been tinted with any desired color of tube oil paint thinned with benzol.

The circle of shellac will prevent the subsequently-applied white zinc cement from running under the cover, which would certainly happen if the shellac were omitted. It may be trite to add that in insect preparation as in all microscopical work, the utmost cleanliness should be observed and dust avoided as much as possible. For this purpose it is best not to have a woolen carpet in the work room. Some of its dust will be sure to appear in the mounted slide.

Some interesting insects are too large for ordinary 3 x 1 in. slips. For these can be obtained 3 x 1 1/2 in. slips from the Palmer Slide Co., Geneva, N. Y., with covers round or square to match. This company, for a very reasonable charge, will grind the edges of covers, thus enabling a nicer finish.



In this work none of the preceding processes of preparation are required. The most to be done is in providing a suitable cell, which is quite fully explained in the text books. It is desirable to have a good, dark background on which to place the insect. This may be made by brushing a coat of water-color lamp-black on the bottom of the cell. When dry, put in a drop of Asphalt cement, on which place and press down a cover-glass small enough to go inside the cell. On this quite opaque and black bottom of the cell, attach the insect in proper position by means of the paste referred to, and place some light weight on the insect to hold it down until the paste is dry.

Fresh insects are more pliable to put in position, but if used, the slip must be put away until the object is quite dried, otherwise there will be formed on the inside of the cover-glass a film which will obscure the view. When dry, place the slip in a turn-table and apply a thin ring of cement about the top of the cell, on which place and press down the cover-glass evenly adjusted to the rim of the cell and not so large as to project over. When the cement is hardened three other thin coats may be added, having care that each coat is dry before the next is applied. As cements, by evaporation, so quickly become thickened, there is a tendency to use them of such consistency as not to flow freely, hence the work is not smoothly done.

If the first coat is not quite dried and too thick coats follow, the cement is liable to run under cover.

For adhesiveness, durability and beauty of finish, white zinc cement will, if properly used, be found quite satisfactory.

For labeling slides a very good paste is made with dextrine mixed in camphor-water to the consistency of ordinary mucilage, to which paste is added about six drops of glycerine to the fluid ounce. If this should tend to mold add two or three drops of carbolic acid.

The processes described in these papers are not claimed to be to any considerable extent original; but are such as the writer has found most satisfactory after some years of amateur experiment There are readers of The Microscope who can doubtless suggest some improved methods. If they will do so, then more benefit will result to those working in this line than anything herein set forth”.


Figure 6. Photomicrographs of the B.F. Quimby slide of salicine crystals shown in Figure 1, viewed between crossed polarizing filters (polariscope). The upper left image did not use a selenite filter, the other three images used various tints of selenites.

Figure 7. Polariscope photomicrographs of the G.A. Quimby slide of salicine crystals shown in Figure 1, with a pale blue filter.



Many thanks to Allan Wissner for graciously sharing images from his excellent antique microscope site,



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Annual Statement of the Trade and Commerce of Chicago (1865) “Quimby, BF, BF Quimby & Co, Style of business: Commission, 190 South Water street”, Volume 7, page 119

Bailey's Business Directory of Chicago (1867) “Brokers Stock & Bond…Quimby Hawley Ed, room 7 Reynolds blk”, Vol. 10, page 21

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The Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns (1898) “Madison Avenue…5749, Mr. & Mrs. B.F. Quimby, Miss May Thomas, Miss Annie J. Thomas”, page 123

The Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns (1897) “Madison Avenue…5749, Mr. & Mrs. B.F. Quimby & dr.”, page 170

The Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns (1898) “Madison Avenue…5749, Mrs. B.F. Quimby & dr.”, page 166

Chicago City Directory (1861) “Quimby Benjamin F., (Benjamin F. Quimby & Co.) bds 297 Wabash Ave”, page 286

Chicago City Directory (1863) “Quimby BF & Co., com. mar. 190 S Water, and packers foot S. Water, op. MCRR, freight depot”, page 371

Chicago City Directory (1865) “Packing houses, beef and pork…Quimby BF, 11 Chamber of Commerce”, page 816

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Chicago City Directory (1875) “Hats (manufacturers)…Quimby Benjamin F. 231 N. Clark

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Philadelphia City Directory (1872) “Quimby B.F., sewing machines, 224 S 5th, h 2019 Green

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Stokes, Alfred C. (1894) “Some months ago my correspondent, Mr. Fr. Dienelt, of Loda, Illinois, sent me a microscope slide of the tracheae of the not uncommon aquatic bug, Zaitha fluminea, for a purpose to be specially referred to hereafter, but one that had no connection with the structure of the taenidia; and, still more recently, at my request, Mr. B.F. Quimby, of Chicago, collected in Jackson Park, in that city, several specimens of the same insect and kindly sent them to me, as I had observed on Mr. Dienelt's preparation certain structural points which together form the subject of this paper”, The structure of insect tracheae, with special reference to those of Zaitha fluminea, International Journal of Microscopy and Natural Science, Vol. 13, pages 361-362

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