Armand Spitz - Seller of Stars
Brent P. Abbatantuono
5056 Mallard Pond Court
Orlando, FL 32808-1272
This article is Chapter 4 of the master's thesis "Armand Neustadter Spitz and his Planetaria: with Historical Notes of the Model A at the University of Florida," written by Brent P. Abbatantuono in August of 1994 and printed in the Planetarian, March 1995, by permission.
All photos courtesy Spitz, Inc.
"I never expected to make any substantial contribution to astronomy or science, but what greater satisfaction can I have than to have one very famous astronomer tell me that he gained his first interest in astronomy through viewing a Spitz planetarium when he was a small boy. I can only hope that in whatever celestial book-keeping there is I will be given indirect credit for helping along the knowledge of the heavens."
Armand Neustadter Spitz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 7, 1904. His father Louis was a physician and his mother Rose (nee Neustadter) a homemaker. Among the various biographical sources on Armand, only one refers to a brother named Louis who became a physician in West Philadelphia like his father. Armand Spitz had green-gray eyes and dark hair which thinned and grayed prematurely.
Armand attended public schools, graduating from West Philadelphia High School in 1922. He entered the University of Pennsylvania immediately after graduation and spent two years there. Transferring to the University of Cincinnati, Armand attended classes from September of 1924 through April of 1926, when he left without receiving a degree. He then returned to Pennsylvania to work as a journalist.
In Philadelphia, Armand first worked as a district reporter forth Camden Courier. He enjoyed gathering news and later recounted, "I acquired a sneaking desire to have a newspaper of my own. "By 1928, Armand closed in on that goal by joining the Haverford Township News, based in Brookline, Pennsylvania as editor. Within three months, Spitz had saved enough money to purchase the News, found the Spitz Publishing Company, and achieve his goal. In the Township News, Spitz concentrated on community activities, with occasional features on special events in Philadelphia, including notes on the Franklin Institute. Beyond work on his own paper, Armand continued serving as a correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin into the mid 1930s.
Bolstered by his work as editor, publisher, and owner of the Township News, Spitz participated actively in his community into the Great Depression. He served as president of the Haverford Township Free Library and founded the Haverford Township Chamber of Commerce. These activities made Armand well known in the township, but not necessarily popular. In the elections of 1932, Armand endorsed several candidates from the "wrong" (losing) party. Some residents disagreed with him so strongly they burned him in effigy.
During the Depression, Spitz and the Township News suffered. Supporting banks and advertisers found themselves unable to pay for their space. Although he accepted scrip as payment and bartered goods for various companies' advertising space in the paper, Armand could not provide enough financial support to sustain the newspaper so both he and the Township News were forced into bankruptcy in1932.
Without money or a job, Armand voyaged to France intending to work as a correspondent or writer. Unable to pay for the trip, Spitz took a dishwashing job on a freighter. According to an interview from 1957, this voyage generated Armand's first deep interest in observational astronomy. A ship's officer who befriended Armand taught him celestial navigation. To reckon positions, Armand built a sextant out of a water-filled dish pan, a board, and a toothpick. With this apparatus, Spitz launched his life-long fascination with simplified astronomical instruments that culminated in the Model A portable planetarium. Unsuccessful in starting a career while in Paris, Spitz soon returned to Pennsylvania to resume work as a journalist.Upon his return, Spitz renewed his acquaintance with and began dating Vera Golden, whom he knew from the Township News. She was one of six children of Mrs. Gertrude Golden, a District Superintendent of the Philadelphia Board of Education and eventual chair of its public relations department. According to a 1954 interview, one night during their courtship, Vera asked Armand to name a particularly bright star. Not knowing the answer, he pored over astronomy books and memorized star names to impress her on future dates. After a brief courtship, they married.
Besides her work with the newspaper, Vera served on the Haverford Township Planning Commission and with the local historical society. Together, the Spitzes had two children-a daughter, Verne Carlin born in 1935 and a son, Armand Lawrence (Larry) born in 1939.Unfortunately, the marriage between Armand and Vera was not happy and they divorced late in 1957, following a publicized suit. Vera died without having remarried at her sister's home in Havertown, Pennsylvania on 21 April 1962.
Astronomy Beckons Armand
Armand Spitz began his path to the stars with an eight year association with Haverford College located in Haverford, Pennsylvania, from1935. There, he worked as an assistant astronomer and astronomy lecturer, but he never achieved faculty status since he lacked a college degree. Spitz later remarked on the limits of his formal astronomical education:
"I am not a mathematical astronomer. I don't get along with mathematical equations. I am not very much of a scientist. You can call me an interpreter of science if you want to."
Nevertheless, Spitz used the college's ten-inch refractor to study double stars and gave frequent public lectures. James Greene, emeritus professor of astronomy at Haverford, through telephone interview recalls Armand Spitz as an active educator who was constantly trying to spread his passion for astronomy to the public within this highly appropriate setting.
During 1935, Spitz constructed a four-foot tall papier-mâché Moon which he then brought to classrooms, auditoriums, and museums to show audiences how our satellite appeared through an average telescope. These lectures spread Spitz's fame nationally and drew large audiences. Illuminated by spotlights, this large hemisphere showed detailed craters, rilles, and maria. Since it only cost$15 to build, this model was widely copied but, as Vera recalled, gluing it together (which Armand did in the kitchen), "made the house smell like a fishery for weeks." Despite such meager origins, the Moon eventually became a permanent display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
The Spitz home, a two-century-old house in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, staged several other of Armand's astronomical projects. In the yard, Armand built an equatorial-pier reflecting telescope. When repainting the living room, Spitz covered the ceiling with "an elaborate representation of the planets revolving among the signs of the zodiac." On some walls he painted detailed astronomical instruments including a replica of Tycho Brahe's mural quadrant. After Spitz moved away, these designs were mistakenly classified as early examples of Oriental art in America. Perhaps the most significant pieces of astronomical machinery to come from this home, however, was the Soft Soap original and several subsequent prototypes of the Model A planetarium.
In 1935, Armand Spitz brought his new passion for astronomy to the Franklin Institute, where he tried to volunteer writing publicity. The Institute did not call on him until 1936, when Armand was asked to do three weeks' publicity for special shows as a public relations officer. He proved so suited to this position that he remained on the Institute's staff for nearly twenty years. Spit eventually resigned to work on his planetaria full-time, but maintained ties with the Institute and Fels Planetarium until 1955. During his time at the Franklin Institute, Spitz filled a variety of positions ranging from editor of the Institute News (1936-1943),founder and director of the Department of Meteorology (1940-1947),Assistant Director of Public Relations (1941-1943), Director of Education (1941-1953), and lecturer in the Fels Planetarium (1942-1955).
Throughout his work at the Franklin Institute, Spitz fostered his interest in astronomy, always seeking to lecture at the Fels Planetarium. Originally denied him for his lack of formal education, Armand’s efforts paid off and he eventually delivered nearly one thousand lectures at the Fels by 1955. Topics gleaned from copies of the Journal of the Franklin Institute include many designed for school children as well as a holiday programs like "The Christmas Star" and "Easter's Moon."
As an important part of his work at the Franklin Institute, Spit designed and participated in several broadcast media shows. Appearing over a decade, they ranged from a basic science radio show to an early interactive television program. Some reached only Philadelphia while one of the radio programs and a later television show gained national exposure and popularity.
Beginning in 1935, the radio show "My Stars" represented Spitz's first foray in broadcast journalism. Spitz wrote and starred in this show which told listeners "what's up tonight. "Although popular, this program ended with World War II airwaves restrictions.
In the fall of 1944, the Franklin Institute launched "Science Is Fun" after a suggestion by Mrs. Gertrude Golden. Broadcast on radio station WFIL from the Franklin Institute Mondays at 2:15P.M., it highlighted scientific events, noted anniversaries, and ongoing activities of the Franklin Institute and Fels Planetarium. Spitz contributed regularly; advertising planetarium shows, talking basic astronomy, and explaining sciences like meteorology. Widely acclaimed, the series became part of the public school curriculum in grades three to six. Spitz developed a educator's guide to the series and integrated student and teacher suggestions into newer shows.
Spitz began another program after World War II aimed at high school students. "Great Moments in Science" ran on radio station WIP from Philadelphia Tuesdays at 1:45 P.M. These featured Dr. Roy K. Marshall of the Fels Planetarium, as well as Uncle WIP, and used a format similar to the later television show "Mr. Wizard."
Armand Spitz and the Franklin Institute broke into educational television soon after its introduction. Calling television the "educational medium of the future," Spitz was proud that "Of Shoes and Ships" premiered in 1941 as the nation’s first science education show. Curtailed by World War II, the show nevertheless continued until 1946.
A final, but extremely significant accomplishment which Spit initiated during his service with the Franklin Institute began in 1950. That year, Spitz coordinated and conducted the first National Science Fair in cooperation with the National Science Service. Held at the Franklin Institute, this event featured the best science projects from high school students across the country. Even though he is rarely mentioned in association with the program, this annual gathering provides Spitz's most enduring contribution to American popular science outside of the planetarium community. As he did with so many other activities, Spitz used the National Science Fair to show school children the possibility of combining education and fun through science.
Armand the Author
As an outgrowth of his lectures at the Fels Planetarium, Spit started writing a simplified basic astronomy text designed to teach the most prominent stars and constellations. He wanted this book to be as readable as possible, recalling the difficulty he had experienced while learning the stars. Therefore, he designed it to be comprehended by and appeal to the school-age children who most frequented the Fels Planetarium shows.
In 1940, Spitz convinced Henry Holt and Company to publish his book The Pinpoint Planetarium, which he divided into two sections. In the first half, Spitz related basic astronomical facts such as how apparent motions influence stars' visibility and retold some of the mythical stories related to star lore. A series of printed "star domes" comprised the second half of the book. By pricking holes in the printed star patterns, bending the domes into a bowl shape, and holding the proper one in front of a light, those stars and constellations which were visible that night appeared. Since the pages were cut out by many readers to make these domes, intact copies of this book are scarce.
Spitz was raised in the Quaker faith and, as an adult, often lectured at the Newtown Square Friends Meeting of which he was a member. For this group, Spitz penned a pamphlet in 1941 on "The Meaning of the Quaker Meeting" which remained in use through his death in 1971. Spitz did not abandon popular literature during his involvement with the Newtown Friends Meeting, however.
While developing and installing a series exhibits on meteorology for school children at the Franklin Institute, Spitz decided the public wanted better explanations of how and why weather worked as it did. Mixing this realization with his drive to spread a love of science, he wrote a book to explain the weather. Enlisting the aid of Mrs. Harry Thomas Jordan, Spitz published his second book in 1943. A Start in Meteorology-An Introduction to the Science of the Weather was intended for laymen without extensive knowledge of mathematics or physics.
According to a contemporary review of the book, "it provides a clear account of why the weather is what it is, and will enable the careful and observant reader to make predictions of his own. "In accord with his personal interest in meteorology, Spitz drew all of the illustrations and wrote the post-chapter questions throughout this volume.
True to his drive to popularize science, Spitz included a gimmick with this book. Built into the cover was a piece of chemically treated paper which changed color according to humidity. Because of this, the book itself was a weather instrument-a perfect example of Spitz's belief that science could be entertaining, easy, and accurate. A Start in Meteorology also coordinated nicely with Spitz's work during World War II as a lecturer on meteorology and celestial navigation at the Air-Mar Navigation school in Philadelphia. The popularity of the book and Spitz's exhibits at the Franklin Institute soon led him to set up a Department of Meteorology there, of which he became the director.
Following World War II, Spitz took on several different independent projects. He went to Puerto Rico as an educational consultant for the United States Department of Education, advising on revisions to science education. Spitz co-founded Science Associates in Princeton, New Jersey to produce amateur astronomical and meteorological equipment and, also in the year 1946, started the Amateur Weathermen of America. In 1947, he became president of the Rittenhouse Astronomical Society in Philadelphia and the next year, began a four-year term as President of the Philadelphia Science Council. Around this time Spitz also joined the American Astronomical Society.
Origins of the Model A
According to his long-time associate Nigel O'C. Wolff, Armand Spitz held two key opinions throughout his life: "He believed the planetarium was 'the greatest teaching instrument ever invented, ‘and he felt it a shame a planetarium could be enjoyed only where some philanthropist donated a huge sum to purchase and house a Zeiss instrument." These twin motives inspired Spitz to begin working on his planetarium as a commercial venture toward the end of 1945. With a target price of $500, Spitz began developing his miniature star sphere. After perfecting this portable planetarium, Armand Spitz spent the next decade consumed with producing and pitching it to amateurs around the country who were interested in the stars.
The history of the Model A planetarium stretches back to the late 1930s, when Armand decided he should be able to give star shows in his home to entertain his young daughter Verne. At the Fels Planetarium, Armand had seen the awe children, and adults, had for the planetarium sky and its stories. Unfortunately, only those fortunate enough to live near major U.S. cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago could enjoy these sky shows. To make this wondrous experience more widely available, Spitz resolved to try and develop a smaller, cheaper planetarium.
The Franklin Institute only offered a moderate salary, but Spitz eventually convinced several friends to help him finance his dream. When Spitz began demonstrations with a hand-made prototype planetarium in 1946, he soon realized that if he hoped to mass produce the instrument he needed an easier shape into which to drill star holes. Custom tooling to cut pinpoint holes in a sphere was just too expensive and hand-piercing each unit required too much time and effort.
Working through each of the regular solids, Spitz initially chose a regular icosahedron to form his planetarium's star "ball”. This twenty-sided figure gave many flat surfaces into which star drilling would be easy. A spate of intensive work followed as Spitz plotted stars off of his celestial atlases onto the planetarium’s plates. Unfortunately, when he assembled this model, the acute triangles required to form this shape were neither easy to cut nor did they produce a three-dimensional shape nearly as spherical as Spitz had intended. He needed a better design. Through his work at the Franklin Institute and recent affiliation with Science Associates in Princeton, Spitz had become acquainted with Albert Einstein. One day, Spitz mentioned his efforts on the planetarium and difficulties with the icosahedron. Einstein suggested the process would be much simpler if Spitz used a dodecahedron to approximate a sphere of stars. This idea proved quite workable and, after another four months of work laying out the new star maps onto plastic dodecahedral plates, Spitz had solved his problem of mass-producing the star panels.
Although the flat pentagons of a dodecahedron made stacking and drilling them easier, it distorted the plotting of stars on the planetarium. Consequently, the early dodecahedral prototypes (which Spitz drilled out by hand at his home and a friend's garage workshop)needed constant tweaking. Thus, Spitz used a stack of small needles and drill bits to enlarge or make new star holes in the plastic panels. A simple black china marker served to reduce and correct any imperfect or misplaced holes. Such last-minute adjustments preceded most of the trial sales demonstrations of the early Spitz travelling prototype planetarium.
One adjustment session immediately preceded the first official presentation of the Model A made in 1947 at the Harvard Observatory. This combined meeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and the Bond Astronomical Society gave Spitz his first chance to have the Model A critiqued by professional astronomers, so each star had to be perfect. From a ladder moved into the Harvard observatory's dome, Spitz and Wolff gave a lecture which showed off the possibilities of the Spitz planetarium to the assembled astronomers and guests. The demonstration was a great success, as were several others Spitz made on this trip. When he returned to his home-office in Pennsylvania, Spitz had received orders from across the country.
This success by no means marked the end to Armand's roving demonstrations, however. Spitz also demonstrated his first commercially built Model A planetarium to military officials at the Pentagon. On the trip, the odd-shaped device was mistaken by one passerby as an atomic bomb. This trip led each of the military training academies to order Spitz planetaria to be used in their astronomical orientation and navigation classes. The first commercial Model A which Spitz had used in his Washington demonstration was placed into service immediately afterwards at Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
With a commercial version built, Spitz began showing off his unit to as many people as possible, often hand carrying his demonstrator model by air, rail, and road to the lectures. Often, as with an American Airlines flight in 1948, he would give impromptu demonstrations to interested passengers if a suitably dark area could be found. Publicity in Sky and Telescope following the Harvard debut demonstration drew rapid national interest for the Model A planetarium. When the first full-page advertisement appeared in the October, 1947 issue, the Spitz Model A was offered at $500 plus freight from Science Associates of Philadelphia. Orders came in for the Model A from schools and universities throughout the United States as well as internationally. Of the overseas customers, some were educational centers but they also included foreign dignitaries like King Farouk of Egypt.
During the first years of the Model A's production, many sales and most product development occurred in the Spitz home. The massive nature of this project forced Thanksgiving dinners to be buffets since "the dining-room table and almost every other surface in the house was piled high with models, tools, books, correspondence, and parts of several planetariums." Such spartan manufacturing arrangements came out of necessity. Spitz operated his company in these early years from the money he and five friends had pooled. Until museums and schools had been convinced his inexpensive instrument could produce adequate star images, no major partners would back him.
Despite this shoestring environment, in 1949 Spitz Laboratories moved into an abandoned vacuum and carpet cleaner store, then to an old movie theater on Woodland Avenue in southwestern Philadelphia. This building became the factory and production center for the next five years. Here, the Model A, its derivative the A-1, and the Model B, were designed and tested under special domes. The first major design change in Spitz planetaria also occurred here, as the dodecahedron star panels went from plastic to metal.
Spitz Laboratories moved to Elkton, Maryland in 1953, when General Development was called in for financial aid. Early Model A-1 planetaria built at this plant included the first bright star/deep sky lens elements inserted into the dodecahedron. When demand for Spitz planetaria required an even larger facility, Spitz Laboratories relocated again to Yorklyn, Delaware in 1955. This plant produced the bulk of Model A-1 units and all the Model A-2 planetaria. A final relocation came with a 1969 move to a custom factory in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania instigated by the new owner McGraw Hill.
Armand Spitz was called by one associate "a man with an endless stream of ideas." Almost anyone who knew him would confirm the majority of those ideas focused on popularizing astronomy. Although he had done this with his model Moon in the 1930s and his two books in the early 1940s, Spitz's undeniable influence in popular astronomy came through his selling of the Model A.
Armand Spitz took promotion of his planetarium to extremes and heavily publicized unusual installations of his planetaria. As previously noted, one Spitz Model A-the "Little Planetarium” of Boston-was the world's first travelling planetarium. Its director Charles Federer became a life-long friend to Armand and used his position at Sky and Telescope to promote Spitz planetaria with articles such as "Trail Blazing with Spitz Planetariums” which essentially constituted feature-length advertisements.
The notion of a travelling Spitz planetarium was later picked up by St John Terrell with his "Astrotarium." Using an inflatable planetarium dome and a Spitz Model A-1 projector, he departed Wichita, Kansas in 1958, then drove across the Midwest where he set up the planetarium for shows in shopping center parking lots. Coverage of these rolling Spitz star shows included a short photo essay in the New York Times Magazine Sunday supplement.
Other unusual Spitz locations abounded. One was the "unusual planetarium installation," cited in Popular Astronomy, erected within the Ozark Mountains as a tourist attraction. According to the wishes of Frank C. Thomas, a large cave on the outskirts of Fayetteville, Arkansas housed this Spitz Model A-1 star theater. Certainly, such positive coverage of extraordinary Spitz installations in widely read astronomical and general publications augmented interest in Spitz planetaria.
In a slightly different vein, Herbert N. Williams, convinced of the Model A's effectiveness during a 1948 demonstration at the Franklin Institute, was hired by Armand in 1952 as a travelling planetarium salesman. With a Spitz Model A and a special collapsible fourteen-foot canvas and aluminum dome in his station wagon, Williams travelled some 40,000 miles over the next two years generating sales for Spitz planetaria. When the Spitz product line expanded beyond the size of his station wagon, Williams altered his methods but not his enthusiasm for Spitz planetaria.
Armand Spitz himself devised several inventive methods for spreading his Model A planetaria. Perhaps the most enduring was the idea of selling stars to finance the purchase and installation of a Spitz planetarium. By organizing efforts to sell "Astronomical Quitclaim Deeds," Spitz doled out "parcels of the universe... that shall remain tax-free until such time as there is habitation of Space beyond the Planet Earth by earthly beings" in proportion to the amount contributed by an individual or organization. Donations of $1 bought common stars, fees from $100 to $250 bought the planets, and $500 each purchased rights to the Sun and Moon. This scheme financed many installations of Spitz planetaria across the country, including those at the Boston Museum of Science (the "Little Planetarium") and at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island.
The furious years of development and relentless salesmanship which Armand put into his Model A made Spitz Laboratories and its planetaria highly profitable by the end of its first decade of existence. Much of the early success stemmed directly from Spitz. Armand’s enthusiasm for popularizing astronomy was not, however, limited to overseeing full-time production of his planetarium instruments. On the contrary, Armand participated in many other notable projects related to astronomy and science education throughout the Space-Race oriented decade which began in the late 1950s.
Other Astronomical Activities
When Sputnik orbited in October of 1957, the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory and Observatory asked Armand Spitz to help coordinate its three-year old satellite prediction and tracking program. Spitz took charge of the operation and soon had 5,000 volunteer observers spread across the United States and into other countries. At various times this group operated as "Spitz's Sputnik Spotters," "Project Moonwatch," and "Project See-Saw." Spitz coordinated observations wired in from remote spotters, ordering new watch schedules and passing results onto the government. To tie in this work with his then highly successful Model A-1 planetarium, Spitz developed an auxiliary Artificial Satellite Projector that sold for $50.
Although he often worked from 5 A.M. to 11 P.M. in his office, Armand also travelled the country recruiting observers and speaking about the potential of satellites. In a 1958 speech to the Baltimore Astronomical Society he remarked, "[I] would be surprised if man reached the Moon during my lifetime." He added, however, "if it were essential for man to reach the Moon, it could be done, although the cost would be fantastic." By the time Spitz died in 1971, six American astronauts had set foot on the Moon and Armand had seen the launch of a Saturn 1-B rocket. Spitz headed this highly successful program until 1962, when it was absorbed into the NASA extended tracking network.
Aside from his work as the nation's chief satellite spotter, Spitz found the 1950s an extremely busy decade. Spitz started five years’ service as a consultant for the National Science Foundation on educational matters in 1956. The next year, he began eight years of service on the governing committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He had become a fellow of this body back in 1942 and served as a representative of the group’s astronomical division between 1943 and 1957. In 1956, Otterbein College of Westerville, Ohio awarded Armand Spitz an honorary Doctorate of Science. This degree was conferred to recognize his "philosophical work in education and science." It only one of many honors which Spitz received to honor his development of the world's first low-cost planetarium.
Following his divorce from Vera in 1957, Armand was seen regularly at meetings of the Astronomical League and the National Capital Astronomers with Grace C. Scholz. Grace was born in New York City in 1912, graduated from Hunter College with her A.B. in 1933,and completed graduate work at Columbia and the American University from 1936 to 1940. Although Grace worked with various U.S. government departments as a medical statistician for many years, she harbored an enthusiasm for astronomy that rivaled Armand's.
Grace's astronomical interests had propelled her into five years of service as executive secretary and two as president of the Astronomical League by 1957 plus a year as president and four as trustee of the National Capital Astronomers. During her presidency of the Astronomical League, Grace began working with Armand to coordinate Project Moon watch stations. Eventually, their relationship blossomed and they were married on 27 September 1958.
After their marriage, Grace and Armand travelled widely to astronomical events promoting their mutual love for the stars by speaking at amateur gatherings and helping raise funds for planetaria. The two also headed several eclipse expeditions in this country and overseas. Following Armand's death in 1971, Grace continued promoting his ideas and planetaria for a few years before retiring to their home in Fairfax, Virginia where she still lives.
Armand also conducted several editing and writing projects in the 1950s. They included American Weatherman, a popular magazine begun in 1949; Weatherwise, a magazine started in 1950 for the American Meteorological Society; The Pointer, a journal of planetarium education begun in 1952; and the Dictionary of Astronomy and Astronautics, a reference book issued in 1959 that consolidated information "previously available only to diligent searchers."
In 1958, Spitz revived the Monthly Evening Sky Map after the death of its founding editor, a friend who had employed him as an editor from 1937 to 1940. Spitz modified this magazine, turning it into the Review of Popular Astronomy and sustaining it as a bimonthly publication until 1969. In June of 1959, the Griffith Observer carried a feature article by Spitz on the educational and entertainment obligations of planetaria which defined planetarium directorship thereafter.
The 1960s saw Spitz continuing his work as head of Spitz Laboratories but otherwise working as a consultant and lecturer across the country. From 1961 to 1963, he lectured to various teacher's groups on science education in New York City. In 1962, he helped setup a science center in Hawaii, even serving there as interim planetarium director. Also in 1962, Spitz purchased Astro Murals, a Philadelphia company that distributed copies of astronomical photographs taken by the world's largest observatories. He operated this company, largely from his home, until his death.
In 1963, Spitz wrote the script "Radio Astronomy: New Window to the Universe" for the West Virginia Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Spitz gained a seat on the Board of Science Education of Washington, D.C. in 1964; the same year he joined the board of directors of Edmund Scientific, a distributor of educational science materials, located in New Jersey. While performing these duties, Spitz also wrote numerous magazine articles on a wide range of subjects. He summed up early Ranger mission photos of the Moon, presented a philosophical essay on the meaning of planetaria, and continued popular writing on historical events in astronomy.
The last major project in which Armand was involved concerned funding and building the first Spitz Space Transit Planetarium(STP) which opened in Miami, Florida in 1966. This revolutionary design introduced fourth axis of rotation and unidirectional seating to planetaria. Active in promoting the project, Armand Spitz was not healthy enough to speak at the dedication of this facility. He did visit it during construction, however, and attended the first Saturn 1-B launch at Cape Kennedy on his return trip to Virginia.
Armand Spitz retired as head of his Laboratories in 1969 when McGraw Hill purchased it and moved the facility from Yorklyn, Delaware to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where it remains today. Armand Spitz died of complications from a heart attack on 14 April1971, in Fairfax Hospital, near his home also in Fairfax, Virginia. Prior to this attack, he had suffered mild strokes over a period of roughly five years, and his health had been declining each time. Despite his degraded condition, Armand taped a final message to the planetarium community which was played at an annual gathering in 1971. Certainly, no words are better than his own to summarize Spitz's life-long contributions to planetaria:
"The fact remains that into a sea of relative placidity, I was privileged to drop the proverbial pebble and the ripples have been moving outward ever since."
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