Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Physical Sciences Collection - Surveying and Geodesy

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Surveyor's Compass - click to enlarge

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Surveyor's Compass

Catalogue number:

"B. Rittenhouse" and "A. ELLICOTT"

Length overall 13.5 inches; needle about 5.75 inches long

Andrew Ellicott had several compasses made by Benjamin Rittenhouse. This one remained in his family until a descendant donated it to the Smithsonian. There is a remarkably similar compass, with the same Rittenhouse and Ellicott signatures, at Fort Necessity National Battleground. For his survey of the southern boundary of the United States in the late 1790s, Ellicott used a vernier compass made by Benjamin Rittenhouse.

Ref: The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, Late Commissioner on Behalf of the United States During Part of the Year 1796, the Years 1797, 1798, 1799 and Part of the Year 1800 For Determining the Boundary Between the United States and the Possessions of His Catholic Majesty in America (Philadelphia, 1803).

Further Information:

Benjamin Rittenhouse
Surveyor's Compass