Did Europeans ever trade telescopes to the Native Americans? Did they ever attempt to do so?

Edit: changing this to any kind of eye aids. Telescopes, spyglass, binoculars, monocles, magnifying glasses, etc. And yes the time is actually 1608 onwards. Since we need a end time too, I picked the arbitrary year of 1850.

Did they also warn them not to point it directly at the sun? Or maybe did they give them solar filters too? (using a telescope on the sun will instantly fry your eye, as in, melt it. This is where pirate eye patches originally came from when someone forgot to apply the solar filter.)

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    Yes, here is a photo of a Native American with a telescope. Also, when I was on a reservation in Northern Arizona, I saw some families out with telescopes one night. They were looking at the stars. Feb 19, 2017 at 22:39
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    Terminology nitpick: are we talking about astronomy telescopes or would that include spyglasses/monoculars? The existing answer seems to mix both, but spyglasses would typically not be used for astronomy
    – SJuan76
    Feb 20, 2017 at 0:52
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    @CGCampbell Yes. Edited that and made it any kind of eye aid. Hopefully I will get no more downvotes/closevotes.
    – DrZ214
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:00
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    Without and end-date, the answer is trivially "yes".
    – user15620
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:35
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    @SJuan76 Actually, looking at the Sun with a spyglass or telescope will instantly fry your eye (if there's no filter). That's where pirate eyepatches originally came from. With the naked eye, the UV light will slowly damage you. So there is a difference. This is why I was concerned if the Europeans explained/warned of this.
    – DrZ214
    Feb 20, 2017 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


Surprisingly, maybe. My initial thought was that a telescope would be much too valuable as a trade item. Some research did come up with an item that was shown in an antique catalog, listed as:

Blackfoot Telescope. 19th c. brass telescope covered with beadwork...

image can be seen at the link:

So this shows 19th century Native Americans in possession of a spyglass, but not how they came into possession of the item.

Description: Crow Telescope with Beaded Buffalo Hide Case, c. 1870s, with diagonal designs, thick fringe with large trade beads at one end, and detailed with red stroud cloth, lg. 8 in.

Provenance: Ex Bud Lake Crow collection.

(this item sold at auction for $3690)

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    An antique telescope with native-American style decoration does not prove anything: it is not known who was the owner of this telescope.
    – Alex
    Feb 19, 2017 at 22:08
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    The 2nd link, Crow Telescope with Beaded Buffalo Hide Case, is not working for me. Can anyone summarize it?
    – DrZ214
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:03
  • updated with description of second link scope
    – justCal
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:28
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    Would anyone like to fund a kickstarter program for a "Smartphone with Celtic knotwork design and paired smartwatch built in to a Claddagh ring" to help me prove that medieval Irish people had intelligent mobile devices?
    – Robert Columbia
    Feb 20, 2017 at 13:21
  • @RobertColumbia Digging 3m deep in suburban London revealed an old copper-wire system that proves that Englishmen were using telephones more than one century ago. But then archeologists dug 15m deep in Ireland and found no glass-fiber network at all, so the obvious conclusion is that Irishmen were already using Wi-Fi in the 8th century.
    – Evargalo
    Mar 19 at 15:05

Maybe. It is possible that European settlers could have given optical devices to the Native Americans, though the indigenous peoples of the new world would have had little practical use for these devices. Few, if any, tribes had written language, thus the convex lenses for farsightedness would have been useless to those people. Glasses for nearsightedness could have been useful to native Americans, though it wasn't as common a condition as it is nowadays. As for telescopes and spyglasses, they may have been a bit more useful to the native tribes, as it would have helped them hunt.

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