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Physical Sciences Collection - Surveying and Geodesy

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Surveyor's Compass - click to enlarge

Surveyor's Compass - click to enlarge

Surveyor's Compass - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Surveyor's Compass

Catalogue number:
PH*325900

Inscriptions:
"Made & Sold by A. LAMB. New York"

Dimensions:
Length overall 14 inches; needle 4.875 inches

Discussion:
Anthony Lamb (1703-1784) was born in London, and apprenticed with Henry Carter, a maker of mathematical instruments. In 1724, having been convicted of being an accomplice in a burglary, Lamb was banished to the American colonies. He arrived in Annapolis, Maryland in December 1724. In December 1730, Lamb advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette (Benjamin Franklin's newspaper) that he was a "Mathematical Instrument-maker, from London, now living in New-York, near the new Dock, at the Sign of the Compass and the Quadrant." Although he offered "all Sorts of Instruments for Sea or Land," the compass on his trade sign was probably a navigational instrument. Lamb soon recognized the importance of the American land, and by 1745 he was trading At the Sign of the Quadrant and Surveying-Compass. In a handbill issued in the early 1750s, Lamb offered "all sorts of Surveying Compasses, with Agate capt Needles."

This brass compass was probably made in the 1750s, and is thus one of the earliest instruments of this sort made in America. Following English practice, the face reads clockwise, and the bar is narrow and relatively flimsy. The vertical sights fold down when not in use. David Rittenhouse would begin making surveyor's compasses with counterclockwise faces, and sturdy baseplates in the 1760s.

Ref: Silvio A. Bedini, At the Sign of the Compass and Quadrant. the Life and Times of Anthony Lamb (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1984).

Further Information:

Surveyor's Compass
Keuffel & Esser

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