Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Physical Sciences Collection - Surveying and Geodesy

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Surveyor's Vernier Compass - click to enlarge

Surveyor's Vernier Compass - click to enlarge

Click photos to enlarge.

Surveyor's Vernier Compass

Catalogue number:

"L. Colton New York" and "Warranted"

length 16.5 inches; needle 5.75 inches.

Joseph Wright (1798-1898) was born in North Carolina, surveyed public lands in Florida in 1824, and he probably bought this Colton compass in preparation for his move to Texas in 1851.

This compass has a variation arc on the north arm that extends 25 degrees either way. The vernier is moved by a tangent screw on the south arm, and reads to single minutes. There are two level vials on the south arm. The tangent screw and the decoration of the face (a circle of flowers and leaves) were typical features of New York compasses. The face reads clockwise. The word "Warranted" is Colton's guarantee of the quality of this compass.

Accompanying this compass is a Jacob's staff (PH*323710) and a surveyor's chain (PH*323711) also owned and used by Joseph Wright.

The tintype on the first page of this on-line catalog shows two surveyors with a compass that appears identical to this one made by Colton.

Further Information:

Surveyor's Compass