The Fata Morgana and Optistar binoculars represent a distinctive, interesting, and enduring binocular development. This design was invented by Alfred Baumann of Kölnische Straße 4, Cassel Germany in 1919, who applied for a U.S. patent July 28, 1919 #313,961 and was granted an optical instrument patent  Nov. 15, 1921 #1,397,156. He applied for French patent June 10, 1919 granted Jan. 1921 # 518,603. He applied for a British patent Aug 28, 1919 and it was granted Sept 30 1920 #151,452. Alfred Baumann also filed for a US trademark of the name “Fata-Morgana” for opera glasses, field glasses etc. # 120,983 July 28, 1919, claiming use of the name for optical goods since “early in 1919”, per the Official Gazette of the US Patent office, Vol. 283 No 1 of Feb 11, 1921. Baumann was operating as Optische Werke Alfred Baumann & Co in 1920. The 4x Fata Morgana and 6x Optistar binoculars were believed also marketed by the firm August F ϋ llgrabe of Cassel Germany (Kassel after 1926). Ninety years later, these binoculars still occasionally turn up in Germany, France, Austria, England, Spain, the USA, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Uruguay, Croatia, Australia & New Zealand and elsewhere. There is even good documentation of dealerships in the Dutch East Indies. These unique binoculars would have been well known to anyone in the optics trade in Germany at the time. The optics are really surprisingly good, especially for the time period. And they are precursors for the other binoculars on this website.

Text Box: VINTAGE MINIATURE BINOCULARS

Japanese External Reverse Porro Prism Binoculars. VIRTUAL MUSEUM

           

- GERMAN ORIGINS #1

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- TRADEMARKED LOGOS

Variety of 1920’s Fata Morgana and Optistar binoculars made in Cassel, Germany. Collection of Mark Ohno

Old mini binoculars

1920’s Optistar 6x binoculars serial number 35123. Origin: Cassel, Germany. Binoculars Sourced in the UK Collection Mark Ohno

Earliest Known Optistar Binoculars, #35123 . Fr ü heste Bekannte „Optistar“ Ferngl ä ser, 35123. Jumelles«Optistar» les plus Anciennes Connues, 35123. Самый ранний известный «Optistar» бинокль, 35123 . も初期の Optistar 双眼鏡 , 35123 . Tidigast kända Optistar Kikare, 35123. Los Primeros Binoculares « Optistar» conocidos. Primo Binocolo « Optistar» noto, 35123.

Fata Morgana and Optistar Miniature Binoculars . Die Miniaturferngläser „Fata Morgana“ und „Optistar“. «Fata Morgana» Jumelles Miniatures et «Optistar» Jumelles Miniatures. «Fata Morgana» Миниатюрные бинокль, «Optistar» Миниатюрные бинокль. «Fata Morgana» Prismáticos, Optistar Prismáticos, en Miniatura. Binocolo «Fata Morgana» in Miniatura. Binocolo «Optistar» in Miniatura.

The Fata Morgana Name. Herkunft des Namens „Fata Morgana“. Le  Nom de «Fata Morgana». мя «Fata  Morgana». La «Fata Morgana» Nombre. Il Nome «Fata Morgana» .

It could be said that Alfred Baumann started the practice of giving these small binoculars interesting and imaginative names with the “Fata Morgana” . The Fata Morgana is an optical mirage caused by temperature inversion, where a second inverse image is created. The phenomenon is believed to be named for Morgan Le Faye, a character of Arthurian legend (Geoffrey of Monmouth, “Historia Regina Britannae” circa 1138). Morgan, also called Morgana, was a “fay”, or sorceress. The optical phenomenon was certainly attributed to magical influences throughout much of human history.

Morgan La Faye casting a spell in Frederick Sandy’s 1864 painting

Fata Morgana & Optistar Binoculars: Known Serial Numbers . Dokumentierte

Seriennummern von Ferngläsern der Marken „Fata Morgana“ und „Optistar“. Les Jumelles «Fata Morgana» et «Optistar»:  Numerós de Serie Connus.«Fata Morgana» И «Optistar» бинокль: известных серийных номеров. 12 Бинокли распространение в Соединенных Штатах и в Мексике. «Fata Morgana» y «Optistar» Prismáticos : Documentado Números de Serie. Binocoli «Fata Morgana» e «Optistar»: Numeri Seriali Noti.

Optical fata morgana

Fata Morgana golden Binoculars Fata Morgan Binocilars

Gilded pair of brass 1920’s Fata Morgana 4x 12 binoculars,

Engraved with family owner’s name. Origin: Cassel, Germany.

Collection of Melanie Willis , USA, Photos Melanie Willis

Gilded Fata Morgana Binoculars

Vergoldetes „Fata Morgana“- Fernglas. Jumelles Dorées «Fata Morgana».  Позолоченное «Fata Morgana» Бинокль.  Fata Morgana めっきされた双眼鏡 . «Fata Morgana» Prismáticos Chapado en Oro. Binocolo «Fata Morgana» Dorato in Miniatura.

(approximate translation) “Get a copy of our Fata Morgana prism binoculars / Several new patents registered / a wonderful bright opera and travel binocular/ Carefully manufactured of first class material./ Warranted/ Is the smallest and lightest binoculars/ 92mm greatest diameter for Your Pocket/ Only 75 grams / 4 power magnification/ Field of View 20 meters at 100 meters/ each eyepiece and the papillary distance is adjustable. Price 75 francs/ You secure a copy immediately at the FATA MORGANA COMPANY. Biel 12, shipping cash on delivery or postal check or advance payment. Biel 1 VA 1024 “

Fata Morgana Binoculars with Handle,1919 Swiss Ad. Miniaturfernglas „Fata Morgana“ mit Haltegriff, Zeitungsannonce Schweiz, 1919. Jumelles «Fata Morgana» Avec Poignée, 1919 Annonce Suisse. «Fata Morgana» Бинокль с ручкой, 1919 года швейцарский реклама. «Fata Morgana» Prismáticos con Empuñadura, Anuncio de Suiza 1919. «Fata Morgana» binocolo con manico, 1919 Pubblicà Svizzera.

Dec 1919 Swiss advertisement suggests initial production was around the end of 1919, which matches the patent filings, and the trademark claims that the use of the name started in early 1919. Collection of Mark Ohno. Note lack of “ABC” Logo in drawing

If my math is correct, by changing 1919 Swiss francs to 1919 US dollars, and then changing 1919 US dollars to 2010 US dollars, the price was around $181.26 in equivalent 2010 US dollars.

OptistarMiniature  Binoculars Original Box

Original Optistar pasteboard box. Collection of Mark Ohno. Box sourced in Germany („Optistar“ Originalkarton)

Text Box: My Fata Morgana golden binoculars with celluloid opera glass handles, an uncommon model. Serial numbers #12679, #12691, #14971, #20241. Collection of Mark Ohno

Collection/Photo courtesy of Marc in Montevideo Uruguay

Two Earliest Known Fata Morgana Binoculars (serial # 520, & #680 ). Älteste Bekannte „Fata Morgana“ Ferngläser mit Tatzenkreuz-Dekor, Seriennummer 520 und 680. Premièrs Jumelles «Fata Morgana», Numéro de Serie 520 et 680. Два первых известных «Fata Morgana» бинокль. Серийный номер 520 и 680. Dos de los Primeros Prismáticos Conocido «Fata Morgana»: Número de Serie 520 y 680. Due Binocoli Più Conosiuti «Fata Morgana» : Numeri di Serie 520 e 680.

Pending future discovery, these two pairs of Fata Morgana binoculars are currently the earliest known surviving examples (serial numbers 520 and 680), and they have a number of interesting features that are not found on other known examples. I believe these were probably manufactured in 1919. They lack the ABC marking found on all other documented Fata Morgana binoculars, but the ABC is also absent in the 1919 Swiss advertisement. On these binoculars the barrel of the objective lens pack fouls the prism covers, requiring a relief cut. Later examples changed the geometry so that the barrels have enough clearance. These Fata Morgana binoculars have a hand stamped design embellishment all over of the Tatzenkreuz (foot cross), or Cross Pattée (footed cross), sometimes also known as the “iron cross” or Eisernes Kreuz after the German WWI and WWII military honor medal of that design. (nearly five and a half million German iron cross medals were estimated awarded in WWI). In 1919 the recent war was an all pervasive influence in Germany. Approximately 13.4 million Germans served in the military, or 20% of the total population. Germany had 5 million military casualties and 2.1 million military deaths. Personal items commemorating WWI in some way are common, and those incorporating the Tatzenkreuz or Eisernes Kreuz is very common on German items. But the symbol was also a generic Christian religious symbol associated with the Knights Templar, and something sold in the US in 1919 decorated this way would not necessarily have been associated with the German medal (as would certainly have been the case within Germany). Focus is accomplished on these binoculars by sliding a pin in an angled slot, to cam the diopter in and out of its barrel. Later models internally work in a similar fashion, but use a focus ring and pin, and the ring is much easier to grasp while looking through the binoculars. It is quite difficult to get a finger on the pin and slide it while viewing on these early models. With neck string these binoculars weigh 76.5 grams, close to the 75 grams claimed by the advertisement, and is reflective of their (unpainted) aluminum construction. By comparison, the gilded Fata Morgana of brass construction binoculars weighs a hefty 150 grams. By sometime in 1920 a revised focus mechanism with ring was pictured, so these binoculars are probably from1919, the  first year of production.

Circa 1919 Fata Morgana

4x binoculars, serial number 680, Origin: Cassel, Germany.

Binoculars Sourced in the UK Collection of Mark Ohno , USA

Photos Mark Ohno

Focus mechanism of pin and slot to cam internal diopter in and out. okussiermechanismus : der innenliegende Diopter wird über Knopf und Führungsschlitz bewegt.

Relief clearance cut into the objective barrel.

The 1919 advertisement clearly shows the pin and slot focus mechanism, and also has no ABC emblem, so it is reflective of the configuration found on binocular serial # 680

German WWI Iron Cross Medal Collection Mark Ohno Deutscher Militärorden  „Eisernes Kreuz” (1WK). Sammlung  Mark Ohno

Ecker Marked Optistar 6x Binoculars (serial # 43820) „Optistar“-Fernglas der Schweizer Vertriebsfirma Ecker, Luzerne. (Seriennummer 43820). Jumelles «Optistar»— Marqué de Distributeur Ecker Luzern, 43820. Ecker отмечен «Optistar» бинокль. Серийный номер 43820. Ecker Marcado Prismáticos 6x «Optistar», Número de Serie 43820. Ecker Contrassegnato Binocoli  «Optistar» (Numero di Serie 43820).

W. (William) Ecker of Kapellplatz 10 Luzern (Lucerne) Switzerland was a photographic supply co. and Opticians They appear in 1913 and 1922 directories by Karl Baedeker covering Switzerland, Italy, Savoy, Tyrol, & Chamonix. The firm is known to have branded opera glasses, barometers, thermometers and similar items with their name. It seems to indicate the first distributor branding of this type of miniature binoculars. The firm Ecker AG still occupies Kapellplatz 10, 6004 Luzern Switzerland in 2012. Pending (probable) future discoveries: this is one of the only three known examples of a private branded or dealer marked Fata Morgana or Optistar binocular (the others being the Prinzess Fata Morgana variant and Dutch East India dealer Bünger marked Fata Morgana), and is the second latest (newest) documented Optistar binoculars to be manufactured according to the serial number.

Ecker Luzern private branded Optistar 6x binoculars, Origin: Cassel, Germany. Serial number 43820. Binoculars Sourced in the UK Collection of Mark Ohno

Black Fata Morgana 4x Binoculars with Opera Glass or Lorgnette Handles

(serial number #14133 & 212268) Fata Morgana“-Fernglässer (4x) mit schwarzem Handgriff, Seriennummer 14133 & 21228. Jumelles «Fata Morgana» Noires Avec Manches de Lorgnette de Spectacle, Numéro de Serie 14133 & 21228. Черный «Fata Morgana» бинокль с телескопической ручкой. Серийный номер 14133, 21228. Negro «Fata Morgana» Prismáticos con una Empuñadura, el Número de Serie 14133 & 212218 . Binocolo Nera «Fata Morgana» 4x con Maniglie (Numeri di Serie 14133 e 212268).

Black Fata Morgana 4x binoculars with telescoping handle. Serial #14133 „Fata Morgana“-Fernglas (4x) mit schwarzem Teleskop-/Lorgnette Handgriff Seriennummer 1433. Origin: Cassel, Germany. Binoculars Sourced in United States Collection of Mark Ohno

Fata Morgana Binoculars telscoping handle.
Fata Morgana jumelles.
fata Morgana fernglas.
fata Morgana binocolo.
Fata Morgana prismaticos.
Fata Morgana binoculares.
Fata Morgana kikare.
Fata Morgana kikkert.
Fata Morgan verrekijker.