This is easily the best lunar photograph of the 1800s

The landing of the Curiosity rover represents another inspiring jaunt humanity's taken into the nearby reaches of our Solar System. But in the late 1800s, such fantastical expeditions were sequestered to Jules Verne novels, and starry-eyed spacefarers were forced to reconstruct our cosmic neighbors on Earth (and furnish them with bored, mustachioed security guards).

What you're seeing here is an 1898 photograph of Thomas Dickert and Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt's model moon, which was constructed of "116 sections of plaster on a framework of wood and metal." At the time, this 19-foot-diameter moon — which was completed in 1854 after five years of modeling and building — was sitting near the Geology wing of Chicago's Field Columbian Museum. Incredibly, there was period of time where astronomers had no idea where the darn thing was, thanks to constant city-to-city tours. An 1899 article in Nature cleared up this confusion:

This is easily the best lunar photograph of the 1800s


The present location of the Schmidt-Dickert relief model of the moon is probably not generally known in Europe. Webb's "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes'' (edition of 1896) states that the model is in Bonn, and this impression probably generally prevails. As a matter of fact the model has been for about twenty years in America. It has been on exhibition only at rare intervals during the time, however, and hence has been lost sight of. By a disposition recently made of it, it has fortunately become available to students of science and the public generally. Through the generosity of Mr. Lewis Reese, of Chicago, it has been presented to the Field Columbian Museum, and is now installed in this institution.

This is easily the best lunar photograph of the 1800s

How many copies of Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes were stomped into paste outside of the Natural History Museum in Bonn by enraged, moon-loving pilgrims? The sands of time will likely never relinquish that secret.

Also, anybody know where this model is today? I ask because I'd like to live in it, assuming it isn't filled with spiders, coyote bones, and broken bottles of Grandpa Jehoshaphat's Laudanum-O-Riffic Brain Tonic.

[The Field Columbian Museum via La Boite Verte]