History of Kaleidoscopes

1816 - Sir David Brewster, a Scottish scientist, invents the kaleidoscope while experimenting with light polarization. Brewster filed a patent on his design, but due to a fault on his patent registration, Brewster never saw any financial rewards for his invention.

1819 - The East India Trading Co. brings kaleidoscopes to Japan, where they become popular as one of the only foreign objects allowed in the country by the Shogun.

1870s - Charles Bush pioneers liquid-filled cells and popularizes kaleidoscopes in the U.S.

1970 - John Burnside makes a new development in kaleidoscopes by inventing the teleidoscope, a kaleidoscope with no object cell, which instead creates a mandala out of whatever you view through it. Around the same time, the U.S. experiences a "kaleidoscope renaissance," with many new artists starting to make and share kaleidoscopes.

1980 - Janice Chesnik, mother of Jon Greene, co-owner of our store, makes her first stained glass kaleidoscope. Janice and her husband Ray, and her daughter Sheryl Koch and Sheryl's then husband Joe Koch, start Chesnik-Koch Kaleidoscopes, which eventually splits off into two distinct companies, Chesnik Scopes and Sheryl Koch Kaleidoscopes, both very popular to this day for their wheeled styles of kaleidoscopes.

1986 - Cozy Baker writes the world's first book on kaleidoscopes and founds the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society, now an international group of artists, collectors and retailers with annual conventions in different cities throughout the U.S. Cozy would go on to write many more books on kaleidoscopes and became known as the "First Lady of Kaleidoscopes."

Cozy's hardcover books are now out of print, but they are often found for sale on ebay.  Cozy's last two books are Kaleidoscopes: Wonders of Wonder, and Kaleidoscope Artistry. They're coffee-table books, fascinating to read and feature stunning photography, making them thoughtful gifts for veteran and budding kaleidoscope collectors alike.

1999 - Dr. Hirotomo Ochi opens the world's first kaleidoscope museum in Sendai, Japan.

1990 - Jon Greene joins his mother and stepfather, Janice & Ray Chesnik, in creating the Chesnik Scopes line of kaleidoscopes.

April 2010 - Suzanne and Jon Greene open Cape Kaleidoscopes!

October 2010 - The kaleidoscope community mourns the loss of Cozy Baker (see 1986 above).  To learn more about her, visit the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society.

October 2017 - Suzanne and Jon Greene semi-retire (yes, Jon is still making scopes!) shortly after selling Cape Kaleidoscopes to Lisa Hill, who now operates the online business at  The retail store on Cape Cod has fully retired!

July 2019 -  Carolyn Bennett, a pioneer of the modern kaleidoscope artistry, retires from a 40 year career as an award winning kaleidoscope artist after selling her business C. Bennett Scopes to Lisa Hill.  Lisa now produces both the C. Bennett Scopes line of liquid suspension kaleidoscopes and Carolyn's Special Occasion Kaleidoscopes made from invitations, photos, announcements and commemorative documents.  

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