§ 2.3. Marketing and Sales
Gregory Gross

§ 2.3. Marketing and Sales

On This Page

  1. Marketing Channels
  2. Advertising Themes
  3. Pricing and Sales
  4. Service

Lawrence Braymer had a lot in common with his close friend Frank Godwin.

Both were formally educated artists. While Braymer attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the Audubon Tyler School of Art,[1] Godwin studied at the Art Students League of New York after apprenticing at the Washington Star, where his father was editor. Although he was largely a self-taught artist, Godwin was heavily influenced by the work of others during his year studying art in New York. He shared studio space with Charles Dana Gibson, who achieved fame for his expressively iconic “Gibson Girl,” James Montgomery Flagg, whose later work included the famous World War I-era U.S. Army recruitment poster “I Want You for U.S. Army,” and Eugene O’Neill. Godwin went on to create his own distinct style for tone and facial expressions. He created illustrations for a variety of publications including comic strips, humor magazines, and children’s books.[2] Ayn Rand personally selected him to illustrate a serialized version of The Fountainhead that began running in 55 newspapers in December 1945.[3] Like Braymer during his early years as an artist, Godwin was a professional illustrator who moved frequently from one job to the next.

Both served during World War I. While Braymer was a member of the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in northeastern France,[4] Godwin was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. During his service, he designed and built the first air-to-ground reconnaissance camera, an artifact which is now a part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institute.[5]

Frank Godwin making adjustments to a model locomotive
Frank Godwin making adjustments to a model locomotive with an intensity that befitted his nickname “Mr. Meticulous.” john-adcock.blogspot.com

Both were tinkerers. While Braymer never ceased exploring ways to build something better, Godwin described himself as a “frustrated engineer,” and he eventually earned the nickname “Mr. Meticulous.” His hobbies included model trains. Later in his life, he built a four-foot-long locomotive that operated on live steam, and he planned another over three times that size.[6]

Both were writers. While Braymer was a published essayist by 1945 if not earlier,[7] Godwin wrote a manuscript for a book entitled Esoterica in May 1953, and he sought Braymer’s thoughts and criticism about his writing.[8]

Frank Godwin operating his homemade equatorially-mounted six-inch reflector
Frank Godwin operating his homemade equatorially-mounted six-inch reflector. john-adcock.blogspot.com

Both were amateur astronomers. While Braymer participated in the amateur telescope maker movement that emerged in the 1920s, Godwin built his own six-inch reflector and an electrically-driven equatorial mount.[9]

Both were entrepreneurs. While Braymer developed a network of other like-minded business men and started his own business in 1950, Godwin created and sold the famous “Goodwin Barlow.” Housed in a four-inch tube, the lens could be moved back and forth by means of a wooden stick to achieve variable magnification factors.[10]

And both had professional experience in advertising. At different points in their lives, Lawrence Braymer, his wife Marguerite, and Godwin all worked for N.W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia,[11] raising the possibility that they all contributed to similar types of projects and had overlapping networks of professional colleagues.

Jordan Motor Car Company advertisement, <em>Saturday Evening Post</em>, November 6, 1920
Jordan Motor Car Company advertisement with an illustration by Frank Godwin appearing in the November 6, 1920, edition of the Saturday Evening Post. Jordan Motor Car Company via archive.org

One prime example of Frank Godwin’s advertising work was his participation in the famously vivid marketing for Jordan Motor Car Company, whose founder, Edward “Ned” Jordan, was himself a former advertising executive.[12] One piece for the Jordan Playboy appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in November 1920 and was entitled “The Port of Missing Men.” Its copy immediately drew the reader into a realm of wonder that summoned “the spirit of youth.” “Somewhere far beyond the place where men and motors race through canyons of the town—there lies the Port of Missing Men. It may be in the valley of our dreams of youth, or on the heights of future happy days,” the advertisement’s copy read. “Go there in a Jordan,” it beckoned the reader, and “escape the drab of dull winter’s coming.” Above the evocative, airy sales pitch was one of Frank Godwin’s distinctive illustrations. It featured an “Arabian red” Jordan Playboy that sat waiting in the gloom of a snowy scene to take the reader to a better place.[13] Although Jordan no doubt wrote the copy for this particular magazine advertisement, it was Godwin who added the visual enticement that helped make the text come alive. Surely the experience of working not only on Jordan Motor Car Company’s advertising campaign but on all the others he contributed to influenced his later work.

By the end of World War II, Godwin had developed a deep well of experience in advertising. On top of his work for Coca Cola, he illustrated numerous magazine advertisements that linked Texaco to the war effort, and he created several other illustrations with heroic and patriotic themes during the 1940s.[14] They were only a few of the companies for which he helped create compelling promotional visuals.

By the mid-1940s, Godwin had moved to Honey Hollow Road just west of New Hope—the same road that the Braymers lived on—and built a studio there. As an active member of the community, he engaged in activities like volunteering at the annual New Hope Street Fair, where he drew portraits of eventgoers.[15] He eventually became close friends with the Braymers if he had not already known them prior to settling in New Hope. As the Braymers worked to launch their new business, Godwin worked closely with them to promote their new company. A variation of his famous Barlow lens even found its way into the Questar telescope.[16]

The two did not have completely parallel backgrounds. Godwin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1889 and was more than eleven years older than Braymer, and he grew up in somewhat different social and historical circumstances than what his younger friend experienced early in his life. But Godwin was nonetheless a close presence in Braymer’s life. He advised both Lawrence and his wife Marguerite and conferred his mastery of various advertising techniques including the use of testimonials. Godwin may even have been one of Braymer’s salespersons or dealers during Questar’s early years.[17]

He lived close to New Hope until suffering a fatal heart attack in August 1959. He was 69.[18]

Lawrence and Marguerite Braymer no doubt mourned the loss of their friend. Over time, the promotional campaign they created became almost a form of tribute to the help they received from Godwin.

Questar’s superb marketing ultimately left a deep impression in the minds of enthusiasts, and the advertisements that came out of it were a major part of what made the company and its product a success—advertisements that Frank Godwin helped the Braymers create. They described the Questar’s place in the history of telescopes, the extreme precision that went into its construction, its innovative and unique design, and its wide range of applications. Written probably by Lawrence Braymer with the input if not the full-fledged authorship of his wife Marguerite,[19] the text of each advertisement was accompanied by photographs of the telescope itself or of the objects that one could observe with it. The copywriting and the imagery worked hand in hand. Questar’s advertisements sold an instrument that was beautiful to look at and look through. They stood far apart from the gimmicky promotions that other companies published in Sky and Telescope and other publications.

The Questar telescope was a work of art. So too were the advertisements that promoted it.

Marketing Channels

Questar employed a marketing campaign that was made up primarily of magazine advertising and pieces of stand-alone promotional literature.

Magazine Advertising

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, June 1954
Questar’s first magazine advertisement appeared in the June 1954 issue of Sky and Telescope. Questar Corporation

The company ran its first magazine advertisement in the June 1954 issue of Sky and Telescope.[20] After skipping the next issue, Questar repeated the same “beautiful and compact 20th-century telescope” copy eleven times in Sky and Telescope between August 1954 and July 1956. It was the start of an unbroken chain of advertising that lasted in that magazine until May 1993.

In the final years of the 1950s, Questar expanded its marketing efforts into publications that covered a broader range of science topics. Beginning in March 1958, the company briefly ran a series of full-page advertisements in Nature magazine.[21] Eight months later, the company included a modest and compact write-up in Natural History. Under a headline that introduced the “World’s Finest, Most Versatile Telescope” to readers, a brief text block summarized the company’s sales pitch: “A true research instrument of surpassing quality, internationally used by a distinguished scientific and amateur clientele as a portable observatory, long-distance microscope or mighty telephoto lens.” It was new, unique, and handmade. It had “ultra-precise optics,” and it was luxurious, lightweight, and compact.[22] Questar went on to use Natural History regularly to promote its telescope until the early 1980s.

Advertisements in other magazines followed. In 1958, the company advertised in Town and Country.[23] The next year, Questar marketed its telescope in Holiday magazine perhaps as a result of prodding by Arthur C. Clarke, an acclaimed writer who was that publication’s science expert and who owned a Questar telescope himself.[24] The pages of Monthly Evening Sky Map, Review of Popular Astronomy, and Camera 35 magazines also hosted the company’s advertisements.

Questar advertisement, <em>Scientific American</em>, June 1959
Questar ran its first advertisement in Scientific American magazine in the June 1959 issue. Questar Corporation

In June 1959, Questar began its long-standing relationship with Scientific American. Considering that his stepson Dennis Flanagan was its editor, Lawrence Braymer’s choice to place its advertising in that publication may have only been natural. Initiating a presence in Scientific American that lasted over three decades, the company ran an advertisement that reproduced the first three paragraphs of the company’s promotional booklet. “Questar is the finest and most versatile small telescope in the world,” the copy boldly asserted.[25]

One particularly important audience for Lawrence Braymer was the education market. Beginning in January 1960, for example, his company began running a series of advertisements in Catholic Educator that made the case for Questar as a useful instrument for teachers.[26] Questar advertisements surely appeared in other specialized publications that educators read.

By April 1960, Questar claimed that its advertising audience had grown sixteen times as that of Sky and Telescope.[27]

As the company expanded its advertising to numerous magazines, it also occupied positions of greater prominence within them. The unfolding of its presence in Natural History was indicative. After its initial one-sixth-page advertisements, Questar ran its first full-page promotion there in its June-July 1959 issue. Its headline was straightforward and direct: “May We Tell You About Questar?”[28] In February 1960, the company ran its first advertisement on the inside front cover of any magazine.[29] And in the January 1961 issue, Questar ran a promotion on its outside back cover,[30] a position in Natural History it would hold three more times.[31]

While the company expanded its advertising to other magazines in the late 1950s, Sky and Telescope remained the core publication in which Questar’s promotions appeared. In July 1961, the company displaced J.W. Fecker and claimed the inside front cover position for itself.[32] Questar’s advertisements remained there until April 1993 for an astounding total of 382 consecutive issues.[33]

Questar advertisement, <em>Natural History</em>, June-July 1959
Questar ran its first full-page advertisement in Natural History magazine in the June-July 1959 issue. Questar Corporation via archive.org

Although it sometimes placed identical marketing content in more than one magazine, Questar often tailored its advertisements to the particular audience that read them. Promotions appearing in Sky and Telescope discussed astronomical applications, of course. While Natural History had wide-ranging content that was similar to that in National Geographic, it also frequently touched upon topics in astronomy, and it published a monthly star chart in every issue. But nature enthusiasts, terrestrial observers, and photographers also read Natural History. Questar catered advertisements to them with a naturalist’s sensibility that that was largely missing in the company’s promotions in Sky and Telescope. In Scientific American, Questar often emphasized highly specialized industrial and academic research applications for the company’s telescope.

With its advertisements appearing in numerous magazines—and with the considerable resources it undoubtedly spent to put them there—Questar wanted to know which of the publications it advertised in were most effective with persuading prospective buyers to act. Encouraging them to write for more information, the company included its mailing address in each advertisement. Starting with its first one outside of Sky and Telescope in November 1958, a close examination reveals that Questar included a mailbox number that was unique to each magazine. The company directed readers of Natural History to send their inquiries to box 60, Scientific American to box 20, and Sky and Telescope to box 10. Later promotions would indicate even more granular addresses that included department numbers that were sometimes specific to the month and the publication in which an advertisement ran. These mailing details may have brought to readers’ minds various notions of departments in a vast operation. But in fact, they ran contrary to the reality of a company with only a handful of employees who worked in only a few small buildings on a sleepy two-lane highway just outside New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Questar Booklets

The company frequently enticed potential customers with invitations to send for a Questar booklet. With only limited space to make its case in a magazine advertisement, Questar could lay out a complete and wide-ranging exposition on all the virtues of its product in an extended format.

Questar booklet, May 1954
The cover for the first edition of Questar’s May 1954 booklet. Questar Corporation

Lawrence Braymer published his first Questar booklet—and introduced his telescope to the world for the first time—in May 1954. Encouraging readers to send for one beginning with his first advertisement in Sky and Telescope a month later, the first Questar booklet featured 24 pages. It included descriptions of the telescope’s features, its range of usefulness for several applications, a brief history of the telescope since its invention in the seventeenth century, Questar’s place in that history, a discussion of what one could expect from a small telescope, and advice on the care of fine optics. Of the ten illustrations that he included in the first edition of his booklet, Braymer depicted the actual product he was selling in only three of them. The others were more of an historic nature.[34]

In October 1958, Questar published an updated and expanded 32-page edition of its booklet.[35] “In the following pages,” the company wrote, “we shall try to tell you of the many merits of our beautiful hand-made product.” The company ostensibly hoped to provide useful information to its readers, and it apologized if the information it provided was too technical or not technical enough.[36] It discussed Questar’s wide range of applications in a way that was similar to what the 1954 edition conveyed, but it went several steps further. The updated edition provided far more information about accessories that had come available, and it outlined specific prices for the company’s products and services. The photographs of the Questar telescope and of those objects it could render both at the eyepiece and on film spoke for themselves. The company presented a consolidation of the case that it had been making in its magazine advertising up to that point, and it established much of the content that subsequent editions would replicate.

Advertising Themes

Advertisements that the company published during its early years usually featured conspicuous photographs of either the Questar telescope or of those objects that owners could see and photograph with their instruments. The company also included dense blocks of text that made an extended case for the unique characteristics of the Questar telescope.

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, February 1959
The second installment of Lawrence Braymer’s “Questar News” series of advertisements appeared in the February 1959 issue of Sky and Telescope. Adding a personal touch, he added his signature at the end. Questar Corporation

On numerous occasions, Lawrence Braymer inserted himself into his copy, and he voiced his perspective in the first person. This approach was especially apparent in the “Questar News” series of advertisements that occasionally appeared in Sky and Telescope for over two years beginning in January 1959.[37] Using a newsletter format, Braymer assembled little bits of information each of which may not have represented enough content for a full advertisement on its own. Putting them together, however, he found a unique way to convey interesting stories, product announcements, or other thoughts to his readers.

Other themes that Braymer explored in his advertising included Questar’s place in the history of telescopes, the history of his own company, the way in which the design of his clever and unique telescope unfolded, and announcements for new products and production refinements. But most apparent were his emphasis on the optical precision and mechanical quality of the Questar telescope, the wide variety of applications it was capable of serving, its convenience, and the close relationship he cultivated between his company and its clients.

Perfectionism and Quality

Questar “is a miracle of compactness, mechanical elegance, and superb resolving power,” the company boasted in its December 1958 advertisement in Sky and Telescope. “This kind of perfectionism is our business and we love it.”[38]

Demonstration of “a first-class star image”
Demonstration of “a first-class star image” that first appeared in the 1958 Questar booklet. Questar Corporation

Braymer consistently made this kind of claim from the very beginning. Emphasizing its ability to resolve fine detail, he claimed that each Questar would show a perfect Airy disk upon a star test. “Diffraction images are easy to see,” he wrote in his 1958 booklet. “The Questar optics are so perfect that man cannot hope to better them in any instrument of equal aperture.” Obvious to visual observers, the resolving power of the Questar telescope also benefitted photographers, who could take detailed pictures of distant objects with ease. Eyepiece projection could even be used to increase magnification without a loss of image quality.[39]

A year later, Braymer wrote that “the perfect marriage of a correcting lens to an f/2 mirror, whose figure is accurate to 1/64 wavelength of light,” was at the heart of the Questar telescope. “Each element is singly made, and each matched set of Questar optics slowly brought to perfection by a series of high power performance tests, until it is truly an individual triumph of the optician’s art.”[40]

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, July 1955
Questar’s advertisement appearing in the July 1955 issue of Sky and Telescope told readers about “the very great care with which each instrument is made.” Questar Corporation

That triumph required painstaking effort. Perhaps wallowing in the throes of his struggles with Cave Optical Company as his supplier failed to produce satisfactory mirrors for him, Braymer engaged in a lengthy discussion of the extreme difficulty that was involved with figuring the optics for compound catadioptric telescopes in his June 1955 advertisement in Sky and Telescope.[41] He echoed that theme in the next month’s issue of Sky and Telescope, where he wrote about “the very great care” that went into making each Questar telescope.[42]

Still reeling from the experience over two years later, Braymer rhetorically asked why more telescopes are not made like the Questar. The “brutally short design” of Maksutov-Cassegrain instruments involved difficulties that “multiply by the square of the reduction of its length.” Underscoring his own experience, he continued to write that “for several years the task was insurmountable. Hundreds of failures, tens of thousands of dollars, and a tremendous amount of work finally achieved the new order of superprecision required to do the job. But it got done. Questar, jewel of telescopes, was born. It is the world’s finest small telescope. Its performance has surprised everyone, including us who make it.”[43]

Braymer also claimed that the quality of Questar’s machining matched that of its optics. As an added bonus, he wrote in June 1955, its superb optics are mounted “in precision-machine fine metals” whose fit is often “a matter of tenths of a thousandth of an inch.”[44] In his October 1958 Questar booklet, Braymer later added that “we try to build each Questar so well that it will be a fine investment with a lifetime of usefulness. Made of the finest parts procurable, each instrument is hand fitted and brought to final testing by a trained specialist responsible for every detail. There can never be assembly lines for workmanship like this.”[45]

Versatility and Convenience

On the opening page for his 1954 Questar booklet, Lawrence Braymer wrote that “eight years of research and development have served to perfect the long list of patented improvements that distinguish Questar from its predecessors. The happy result is that Questar is not one, but several instruments.”[46]

Catbird and towhee in an argument
In the 1958 Questar booklet, the company included a photograph of a catbird and towhee in an argument, a scene captured by a Questar telescope fitted with a camera. Questar Corporation

From the beginning of his marketing effort in the spring of 1954, Braymer identified five applications for the Questar telescope. First, it was a nighttime astronomical instrument, of course. Coining a phrase that would characterize it for years to come, he described it as a “portable observatory” that weighed a dozen pounds and that consumed only a half-cubic foot of space.[47] Second, it was useful during the day as a solar observing instrument. Third, its ability to bring its owner closer to nature was one point of contrast between the Questar and bulky traditional astronomical telescopes. One could see objects with a clarity and crispness as if to suggest that they were within one’s reach. “Wherever we turn in the country landscape, nature reveals a thousand secret faces, and new surprises daily await our eyes.” And in the city, a wealth of “splendid views” await. “Everywhere the tasks of men go on, and then, after dark, when lights come on, the textures of drab things acquire distinction, as light and shade create another town.”[48] Fourth, the Questar telescope was “the world’s first long-distance microscope, a previously unknown and thrilling instrument.” It could focus on objects as near as seven feet, another function that typical refractors and reflectors could not serve.[49] And fifth, it was useful for photographic applications. Whatever you could see visually in a Questar you could also image with a camera attached to the telescope via its rear axial port.

For all of these applications, the convenience of the Questar telescope was perhaps its most compelling virtue, and the company drove this point home on countless occasions. Reminding his readers that “a ‘scope in the hand is worth two in the attic,” Braymer wrote that “the Questar idea is simply this—when a telescope is very fine, extremely versatile, and always convenient to use, its owner will use it constantly with great pleasure and satisfaction.”[50]

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, June 1958
In its June 1958 advertisement in Sky and Telescope, the company asked its reader to “picture yourself using this Questar.” Questar Corporation

Seeking comfort while observing was a preoccupation for Lawrence Braymer. Since the 1930s, when he built a polar refractor that allowed him to observe in a heated room, he thought about the observer’s comfort as one benefit of a convenient and versatile instrument. Drawing his readers into imagining what the experience of observing with a Questar telescope was like, he encouraged his readers to “picture yourself using this Questar,” as the headline for the company’s June 1958 advertisement in Sky and Telescope read. “You seat yourself before the table on which it stands.” You sit comfortably at the same level as your telescope. Put your elbows on the table and support your head in your hands. “The living tissue of your eye is the last lens of your telescope.” Nothing “must interfere with its proper and constant nourishment.” The barrel rotates, eliminating the need to crane one’s neck. “Now all this may sound a bit silly unless you realize how rapidly your vision is diminished by the least discomfort of position.” Questar is “the shortest of telescopes,” a convenient package that is easy to move and set up. “True, you have to provide a sturdy table and a chair, but man! this table-top observing will spoil you for all other methods.” So “when you tire of the old kind of telescopes a new experience awaits you. For Questar is the finest and most versatile small telescope in the world.”[51]

Questar advertisement, <em>Scientific American</em>, May 1960
In its advertisement appearing in the May 1960 issue of Scientific American, Questar suggested that lunar observing was one area in which “Nature favors the small telescope.” Questar Corporation

Braymer worked to highlight all of the virtues of a miniaturized observing instrument. In his 1954 Questar booklet, he included a lengthy discussion of “what to expect of a small telescope.” Large observatory-class instruments were “not built to look at the moon or planets, which are more clearly seen with instruments of much more modest size. They were made to collect faint light in time exposures for astrophysical research.” But the Questar telescope was different. One could expect to use its “160 diameters frequently upon the moon’s contrasty and brilliant disc, even in climates of normally mediocre seeing.” Small telescopes “enjoy many advantages not shared by larger ones. They work particularly well upon the planets, especially on Jupiter and Saturn.” Because they simply lack the light-gathering ability to offer a satisfactory view of faint objects like nebulae, small telescopes are best on bright objects, and the Questar telescope is no exception to this.[52]

Braymer saw the relationship between aperture and seeing as another basis upon which a small telescope like the Questar had an advantage over larger instruments. “Questar’s final size and shape is by no means accidental,” he wrote in his 1958 booklet. “Its 3.5-inch aperture was selected as a golden mean, small enough to be a keen air-piercing rapier, yet large enough to do the job efficiently.”[53]

And then there was the matter of cost. Contrary to the Questar’s extreme expense, Braymer argued that the owner “of a small fine telescope may certainly expect a great deal from a minimum investment. For here too, the small instrument has considerable advantages. Dollar for dollar, small telescopes give us more for our money. Resolving power increases directly with aperture, a 7-inch resolving twice as well as a 3 1/2 inch. But the weight and cost increase as the cube of any dimension!”[54]

Client Relationship

Lawrence Braymer insisted on calling those who purchased a Questar telescope “clients” instead of “customers,”[55] and his cultivation of a close relationship with those clients permeated his company’s advertisements. From its earliest days, he invited potential buyers to Questar’s factory showroom just outside of New Hope, Pennsylvania. If you are ever nearby, he wrote, “we hope you’ll drop in on us.” But a mere visit was not the only thing that he had in mind. He invited visitors to test his company’s instruments “in a pleasant country setting” and experience their “sensational performance” first hand. “Many people fall in love with Questar at first sight, and after exploring for themselves its sweet feel and remarkable capabilities, tell us that it is everything we said it was and more than they had dared to hope, while some say it is the most beautiful instrument of any kind they have ever seen.”[56]

Taking his cue from his good friend Frank Godwin, Lawrence Braymer included several owner testimonials in his company’s advertisements.[57] Highlighting accounts about the performance of the Questar telescope from individuals from various walks of life, Braymer claimed only to be passing them along.[58]

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, November 1959
Testimonial from S. Paul Jones, a Questar owner in Louisville, Kentucky. Questar Corporation

One such user testimonial appeared in the October 1959 issue of Sky and Telescope. S. Paul Jones of Louisville, Kentucky, believed that the views of the Moon and planets through other larger scopes at a public event were not substantially better than what his Questar provided. They surely did not match the portability and convenience of his instrument. Braymer himself added that such comments from Questar owners were not infrequent.[59]

Another testimonial came in from Frederick Leisch, who was executive vice president in charge of the Chicago office of A.C. Nielsen Company.[60] Perhaps being the ever-careful business executive, Leisch had arranged for Esther Hanson, who was presumably his assistant, to do a little research on the financial health of Questar Corporation before he invested in one of its products. Attached to a March 1958 Dun and Bradstreet report on the company was a note from Hanson that read, “This is the latest they have in file. Would you like to have a fresh search instigated or will this information suffice?”[61]

Leisch not only became a Questar owner, but he also sent word to Lawrence Braymer doubting the quality and effectiveness of his advertising. In one of his “Questar News” editions, Braymer relayed Leisch’s thoughts that “we failed to emphasize some selling prose, and were falsely assuming that people read our ads from month to month. Mr. Leisch is probably right and we are doubtless breaking many rules of good advertising.” Perhaps reinforcing Leisch’s observations, Braymer included Leisch’s comments as part of a full-page ad in Sky and Telescope filled almost entirely with a dense block of text rendered in small type. “Do you read us or not?” Braymer asked. “We’d surely like to know and would welcome your comments, so drop us a line, will you?”[62]

While he used his advertisements to offer a sampling of user testimonials and to solicit the thoughts of his clients, Braymer was not willing to publicize the name of the nearest owner for the sake of an in-person demonstration. By the time he published his Questar booklet in November 1960, he declared his company’s “policy to protect the personal privacy of every Questar owner. Should you become one, you have our promise that in the following years we will never refer prospects to you for demonstrations, send strangers to your door, or ask you to act as our agent or salesman.”[63] Perhaps Questar’s marketing had been too successful—had the company been bombarded by these kinds of requests to the point where it felt that it had to make this kind of declaration explicit?

Whatever the case, “Questar’s reputation is firmly established,” as the company claimed as early as November 1955. It summoned the reader to action: “Why not become a Questar owner yourself?”[64]

Pricing and Sales

The company maintained a relatively stable price over the course of its first years. “Questar’s price is $795,” Braymer first noted in his May 1954 booklet. The instrument came “complete in velvet-lined cowhide fitted case, with all accessories.”[65] But in the November 1955 issue of Sky and Telescope, Questar suggested that potential buyers “reserve a Questar soon, because we cannot long guarantee its price at $795 in the face of steadily rising costs.”[66] By the next month, it followed suit, and the company increased the price for the Questar telescope by $200 to $995.[67] It stayed there until the company announced a new price of $1065 in September 1967.[68]

Price list appearing in the November 1960 Questar booklet
Price list appearing in the November 1960 Questar booklet. Questar Corporation

The amount of money that Questar asked for its product was no small sum. In 1960, $995 represented almost 18% of the median U.S. household’s annual income.[69]

The company offered few options during its earliest years. In December 1957, Questar announced that a quartz mirror upgrade was available for an additional $105.[70] And in late 1960, a slightly less efficient but image-correct Amici prism, a standard feature in the very first production instruments, was a $50 option in place of what became the standard star diagonal.[71]

From the beginning, Questar asked for a deposit of approximately 25-30% of the total price at the time of order with the balance due upon delivery.[72] In December 1956, the company announced a plan through which it made a limited number of Questars available each month for installment payments over a twelve-month period.[73]

Although it offered purchase terms, Questar flatly refused to make any concessions on price. “There are no school or church discounts, none for celebrities, presidents, nobility, or governments.”[74]

Few purchasers who were not institutional buyers, movie stars, elected officials, or royalty could afford a Questar, and it seemed that a few persons let the company know this. “Now they are writing to us in beatnik,” Lawrence Braymer complained in July 1959. “I dig the neat size of the yidda-fedda, but not do I dig the price,” one individual wrote. Braymer responded by pointing out that his company had held its price at $995 since 1955 by means of increased sales, greater manufacturing efficiencies, and a contentment with modest profits. But he also claimed it was difficult to maintain that price in the face of increasing materials costs. “We can tell you this, that we will never cut the quality, and future Questars will never cost less than they do right now.”[75]

Braymer attempted to justify his telescope’s cost by making an appeal to its value. “Questar costs no more than ordinary ‘scopes would if they were so well mounted as to be equally solid and vibration-free,” he wrote in June 1960. But the effort it took to produce such fine optics and machining simply cost money. Moreover, Braymer observed that those few Questars that made it to the second-hand market suffered a depreciation of less than 7% per year. “Remember then, that if you too become a Questar owner, you will be making the most conservative investment possible. We firmly believe that it will cost you less per year to enjoy a Questar.”[76]

From a very early point, Lawrence Braymer assembled a group of representatives and distributors whose job was to promote his new telescope and sell it. By the middle of 1953, as longtime Questar manager Jim Perkins notes, they were “pounding the pavement trying to get the Questar product off the ground.” The company issued them demonstration units, and they were paid from expense reports.[77]

One such individual was Edward W. Mears of Merion, a leafy suburb just west of Philadelphia.[78] One of three partners who owned Mears-Kane-Ofeldt, Inc., a manufacturer of boilers and water heaters,[79] he was himself an inventor who held a patent for an “automatic shut-off mechanism.”[80] Mears also appears to have served during World War I and perhaps knew Lawrence Braymer through membership in military veteran organizations.[81]

Dry Dock Savings Bank showcase
Dry Dock Savings Bank showcase around 1958 featuring a Questar that one could finance through the bank.

Questar also partnered with third-party businesses to place the product itself in conspicuous public places for potential buyers to see firsthand. One such location was Dry Dock Savings Bank in New York City. With suggestions for what one’s savings could buy—or with financing options that the bank was happy to offer—a display case featured a Questar telescope as one possibility. The combination of an expensive, high-quality instrument and an institution that could help a buyer obtain it made perfect sense, as Jim Perkins observed.[82] Both Questar and Dry Dock Savings Bank benefited from the arrangement: Questar gained a sale, and the bank profited from a customer who either built up savings to buy a Questar outright or who financed the purchase through an installment plan.

As his later marketing suggests, Lawrence Braymer did not retain the services of these partnerships for long. Direct-to-customer sales became the company’s primary source of revenue. By 1958, he wrote that “Questars are sold direct from the factory to you. There are no distributors or dealers, hence the price is only two-thirds what it would have to be if the usual channels of distribution were employed. The price you pay is the factory wholesale price; the only profit is our modest one.”[83]

During the company’s first two years, Questar sold one or two telescopes every month.[84] But after Dwight Eisenhower’s gift of a Questar to King Mohammed V of Morocco during a state visit to the United States in November and December 1957, sales increased markedly.[85] By his own estimation in March 1958, Lawrence Braymer had observed a 25% increase in sales over the prior year.[86] Shop records also indicate that Questar built almost one hundred standard units in 1958. Its production rate increased on average by approximately 65 units per year through the end of 1962.[87]

Questar advertisement, <em>Sky and Telescope</em>, December 1958
“This is the way we ship you Questar,” the company wrote in its advertisement appearing in the December 1958 issue of Sky and Telescope. Questar Corporation

When Questar shipped telescopes to its eagerly waiting clients, the company went to great lengths to ensure it arrived safely—and it saw another marketing opportunity in the process. In the December 1958 issue of Sky and Telescope, the company ran an advertisement whose theme was centered around how one’s Questar would arrive. It ships “by mail in this flotation package,” a Leverpak shipping drum that appeared prominently in the advertisement’s illustration. Usually departing the factory on the same day as an order is received, “our drum gets special treatment, traveling with the first-class-mail sacks and arriving as fast as a letter.” Each star-tested instrument is accompanied with a fitted case, accessories, an instruction booklet, and a Bureau of Standards test chart. “To protect the fine British leather from abrasion during transit, we tuck it into the new gray textured-vinyl luggage cover shown. This is piped in black, has nickeled grommets and black drawstrings, and we hope it will also serve to protect the case from being scuffed when you take your Questar traveling.” The Leverpak drum has heavy metal edges and is built to withstand the rigors of shipment. Inside, its padding is made of curled hair and latex. When it arrives, simply lift the telescope out of its drum. “There’s not a speck of dust, no shredded newsprint or excelsior, no nails or splintered crating, no great pile of beat-up carton and wrapping paper.”[88]

Service

Save the shipping drum, Questar reminded its buyers, for “it is your convenient link with us here at the factory, should your Questar ever need inspection or adjustment.”[89] From the beginning, the company offered service for telescopes needing maintenance and repair. “Fast and efficient servicing of your Questar is always available at the factory,” the company wrote in its 1958 booklet. “Our service policy is set up to protect your investment. Instruments will be adjusted or repaired on a no-charge basis if the fault is ours, or on an exact-cost basis if the damage is due to accident in use.”[90] In 1960, the company added that whatever “modernizing of instruments” that was available “will be done at cost of time and materials.”[91]

As its compelling marketing succeeded in selling more and more telescopes, Questar was able to stand firmly behind its product. As time progressed, those individuals and institutions who became owners of those products represented a growing body whose size was testament to the company’s success.

Next: § 2.4. Adoption and Influence

← Return to Table of Contents

Notes

1 “Lawrence Braymer, Devised a Telescope,” New York Times, December 2, 1965, 41, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1965/12/02/95917409.pdf, accessed December 2, 2019; Stewart Squires, online forum posting, Questar Users Group, August 10, 2010, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/conversations/messages/21191, accessed November 3, 2019.

2 Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. “Frank Godwin,” JVJ Publishing, 2011, https://www.bpib.com/illustrat/godwin.htm, accessed December 20, 2020; “Frank Godwin,” Michener Art Museum, n.d., https://bucksco.michenerartmuseum.org/artists/frank-godwin, accessed December 20, 2020; “Frank Godwin,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Godwin, accessed December 20, 2020.

3 Mark Radcliffe, “Frank Godwin,” American Art Archives, n.d., http://www.americanartarchives.com/godwin,f.htm, accessed December 20, 2020.

4 “Lawrence Braymer, Devised a Telescope,” New York Times, December 2, 1965, 41, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1965/12/02/95917409.pdf, accessed December 2, 2019; Stewart Squires, online forum posting, Questar Users Group, August 10, 2010, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/conversations/messages/21190, accessed November 3, 2019.

5 “Ink-Slinger Profiles: Frank Godwin,” Stripper’s Guide, March 7, 2012, http://strippersguide.blogspot.com/2012/03/ink-slinger-profiles-frank-godwin.html, accessed December 20, 2020; “Frank Godwin,” Michener Art Museum, n.d., https://bucksco.michenerartmuseum.org/artists/frank-godwin, accessed December 20, 2020.

6 “Frank Godwin (1889-1959),” Yesterday’s Papers, June 14, 2009, http://john-adcock.blogspot.com/2009/06/frank-godwin-1889-1959.html, accessed December 20, 2020.

7 Lawrence Braymer, “Wanted: A Tube,” Astounding Science Fiction, November 1945, 101-110, 123-126.

8 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

9 “Frank Godwin (1889-1959),” Yesterday’s Papers, June 14, 2009, http://john-adcock.blogspot.com/2009/06/frank-godwin-1889-1959.html, accessed December 20, 2020.

10 “Bargmeyer Reflects on Michiana Astronomy,” Nightwise.org, January 14, 2014, https://www.nightwise.org/single-post/2014/01/15/Bargmeyer-Reflects-on-Michiana-Astronomy, accessed December 20, 2020; online forum posting, BirdForum, January 29, 2013, https://www.birdforum.net/threads/modifying-a-low-cost-barlow-lens-for-use-with-the-pentax-pf-edaii-spotting-scope.249576/, accessed December 20, 2020.

11 “Ink-Slinger Profiles: Frank Godwin,” Stripper’s Guide, March 7, 2012, http://strippersguide.blogspot.com/2012/03/ink-slinger-profiles-frank-godwin.html, accessed December 20, 2020; Stewart Squires, online forum posting, Questar Users Group, August 10, 2010, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/conversations/messages/21191, accessed November 3, 2019; Charles Shaw, “Larry Braymer: ‘In Quest of the Stars,’” New Hope Gazette, March 14, 1985, 3, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/FAQ/, accessed October 15, 2019.

12 “Jordan Motor Car Company,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_Motor_Car_Company, accessed December 21, 2020.

13 Jordan Motor Car Company, advertisement, Saturday Evening Post, November 6, 1920, 69, https://archive.org/stream/saturdayeveningp1933unse/saturdayeveningp1933unse#page/n78/mode/1up, accessed December 21, 2020.

14 Mark Radcliffe, “Frank Godwin,” American Art Archives, n.d., http://www.americanartarchives.com/godwin,f.htm, accessed December 20, 2020; “Frank Godwin,” Michener Art Museum, n.d., https://bucksco.michenerartmuseum.org/artists/frank-godwin, accessed December 20, 2020.

15 “Frank Godwin,” Michener Art Museum, n.d., https://bucksco.michenerartmuseum.org/artists/frank-godwin, accessed December 20, 2020; Charles Shaw, “Larry Braymer: ‘In Quest of the Stars,’” New Hope Gazette, March 14, 1985, 3, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/FAQ/, accessed October 15, 2019.

16 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, November 1960, 26; Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

17 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

18 “Frank Godwin, 69, Cartoonist, Dead,” New York Times, August 6, 1959, 27, https://www.nytimes.com/1959/08/06/archives/frk-godwilq-69-gartoonist-deadi-creator-of-rusty-riley-for-king.html, accessed December 13, 2020.

19 In a message to the Alt-Telescopes-Questar Majordomo email list, Stewart Squires indicated that Lawrence Braymer wrote all of Questar’s advertisements and promotional literature before his death in 1965 (Stewart Squires, Alt-Telescopes-Questar Majordomo list message, December 7, 1998, digest 307, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/Alt-Telescopes-Questar%20Digests/, accessed October 14, 2019). Jim Perkins also notes that Lawrence Braymer did most of the writing and graphic layout for Questar advertisements in the 1950s and early 1960s (Jim Perkins, email message to author, September 28, 2020). But in his “Questar Timeline,” Ralph Foss wrote that he was more inclined to believe that Marguerite Braymer, who had spent a number of years working in the publishing industry and who took over creating Questar’s advertisements after her husband’s death, had at least some involvement in creating the marketing for Questar from the beginning (Ralph Foss, “Questar Timeline” (unpublished manuscript, September 22, 2007, revised September 19, 2009), typescript).

20 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1954, 272-273.

21 Search results, Internet Archive, n.d., https://archive.org/details/pub_nature-magazine?query=Questar&sin=TXT, accessed November 20, 2021.

22 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, November 1958, 528.

23 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

24 Search results, Internet Archive, n.d., https://archive.org/details/pub_holiday?query=Questar&sin=TXT, accessed November 23, 2021; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, January 1959, 148.

25 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, June 1959, 82.

26 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Catholic Educator, January 1960, 379.

27 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, April 1960, 386.

28 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, June-July 1959, 319.

29 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, February 1960, inside front cover.

30 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, January 1961, outside back cover.

31 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, August-September 1962, outside back cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, November 1962, outside back cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, March 1964, outside back cover.

32 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, July 1961, inside front cover.

33 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, April 1993, inside front cover.

34 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1954, 272-273.

35 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1959, 132. Questar references “the Questar booklet published first in October ‘58.”

36 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 3.

37 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, January 1959, 148.

38 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1958, 101.

39 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 23, 25.

40 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, November 1959, 220.

41 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1955, 348-349.

42 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, July 1955, 376-377.

43 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1957, 91.

44 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1955, 348-349.

45 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 29.

46 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954, 1.

47 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1954, 272-273.

48 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954, 8-9.

49 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1954, 272-273.

50 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1955, 96-97.

51 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1958, 422.

52 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954, 19-21.

53 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 5.

54 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954, 21.

55 Rodger Gordon to the author, September 23, 2020.

56 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, November 1954, 28-29.

57 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

58 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, August 1957, 486.

59 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, October 1959, 714.

60 1946 Yearbook Number (Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Telecasting, 1946), 577, https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-BC-YB/1946/1946-BC-YB.pdf, accessed November 17, 2020.

61 Esther Hanson to Frederick Leisch, circa 1958.

62 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, February 1959, 217.

63 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, November 1960, 29.

64 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, November 1955, 32-33.

65 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, May 1954, 1.

66 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, November 1955, 32-33.

67 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1955, 96-97.

68 Questar Corporation, price catalog, September 1, 1967.

69 “Income of Families and Persons in the United States: 1960,” U.S. Census Bureau, January 17, 1962, https://www.census.gov/library/publications/1962/demo/p60-037.html, accessed August 14, 2020.

70 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1957, 91.

71 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, November 1960, 15, 31.

72 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1954, 272-273.

73 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1956, 98.

74 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, November 1960, 29.

75 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, July 1959, 523.

76 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1960, 488.

77 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 11, 2020.

78 Questar Corporation, salesman instrument leaflet, June 1953.

79 Gas Appliance Merchandising (Philadelphia: Robbins Publishing Company, Inc., February 1933), https://books.google.com/books?id=Z0IIu2u9L7cC&pg=RA1-PA9#v=onepage&q=MEARS-KANE-OFELDT%20Inc&f=false, accessed December 20, 2020.

80 Edward W. Mears, 1932, Automatic Shut-off Mechanism, U.S. Patent 1,877,349, filed July 3, 1931, and issued September 13, 1932, https://patents.google.com/patent/US1877349, accessed December 20, 2020.

81 “All results for Edward Wimer Mears,” Ancestry.com, n.d., https://www.ancestry.com/search/?name=edward+wimer_mears, accessed December 20, 2020.

82 Jim Perkins, email message to author, November 12, 2020.

83 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 29.

84 “Questar Products Index & Overview Page,” Company Seven, n.d., http://www.company7.com/questar/index.html, accessed July 3, 2019.

85 Rodger Gordon in discussion with the author, August 15, 2020.

86 Dun and Bradstreet, report for Questar Corporation, March 25, 1958, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/Fred%20K.%20Leisch%20Questar%20/, accessed October 14, 2019.

87 Questar Corporation, shop sales list (unpublished manuscript, 1958-1970), handwritten.

88 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1958, 101.

89 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, December 1958, 101.

90 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, October 1958, 29.

91 Questar Corporation, Questar booklet, November 1960, 29.