January 20, 2022

Return to Starlight Nights: Part 2

With November 13 officially celebrated as Leslie Peltier Day in Delphos, we decided to give everyone an update on the new Leslie Peltier Exhibit at the Canal Museum. 

Earlier this year, pre-covid 19, we updated our friends and fans on the progress we were making on the new Leslie Peltier exhibit at the Canal Museum.  Our intrepid crew had worked hard on the Merry Go Round Observatory replica but were forced to take some time off when covid 19 closed down much of Ohio.  Well, conditions improved and our crew and volunteers got back to work and finished off the new exhibit.  Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

The exhibit is announced with a large, beautiful banner that is visible from much of the second floor.  The banner includes two photos of Leslie Peltier; one sitting at his desk at the Delphos Bending Company and the other at his telescope in the cow pasture observatory.  Harvard Observatory’s Dr. Harlow Shapley’s 1934 quote that Peltier was the “world’s greatest non-professional astronomer” highlights the center of the banner.

The exhibit begins with a brief history of the Peltier family.  Photos of Peltier’s grandparents, parents and siblings are featured as are a few, rare photos of the family farm on Ridge Road.  A postcard photo shows Leslie in the strawberry field where he picked 900 quarts of strawberries at 2 cents per quart to earn $18 to buy his first telescope.  Next in the exhibit is an old window sash framing a view of the Pleiades.  This recalls the night in 1905 when Leslie’s mother, Resa, introduced him to the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, while looking out the kitchen window.  It was Leslie’s first meeting with the stars leading to a lifelong relationship with the night sky.

In the corner is a smart tv continuously playing a slide show of photos and drawings chronicling the life of Leslie Peltier.  The show includes some rare photos of the reconstruction of the large, dome observatory at Brookhaven, his home on Bredeick Street.  The observatory was cut apart at Miami University and transported to Delphos where it was rebuilt at Peltier’s home. 

The exhibit continues with dozens of photos and drawings of the observatories that Peltier used in his stargazing over the years.  Included are the cow pasture observatory at the farm on Ridge Road, his groundbreaking Merry Go Round Observatory and the large, dome observatory that originated from Miami University in 1955.  Included in the mix are photos of Leslie at work at the Delphos Bending Company, the Ford Observatory on Mount Peltier in California and a poster listing of the twelve comets discovered by Peltier.  The three books authored by Peltier, including the Ohioana Award winning Starlight Nights, are displayed in a case on the wall of the exhibit. 

A reproduction of the famous Strawberry Spyglass stands near the windows giving visitors an opportunity to peek out the window at the city. 

The gem of the exhibit is the replica Merry Go Round observatory.  The idea of a rotating observatory came to Leslie while he was sitting in his office chair.  Peltier built the MGR from bits and pieces he found around the farm and items scavenged from junkyards.  With no blueprints to go by, the replica was fashioned from photos, a written description in Starlight Nights and a 1940 article in Popular Science magazine.  It took some creativity and a lot of trial and error but the MGR was finally completed.  One side of the MGR was left open to show visitors the interior workings. 

We invite all to visit the Museum and view this remarkable, new exhibit.  With covid 19 still prevalent an official dedication of the exhibit has been put on indefinitely delay but you will all be invited when we are set to celebrate this new exhibit and honor Leslie Peltier.

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