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:

"J. Prentice, 66 Nassau St., N. Y."

length 14.125 inches; needle 5 inches


James Prentice (1812-1888) was born and trained as an instrument maker in London. He began in business in New York in 1842, importing and manufacturing mathematical instruments. Later advertisements mention optical, meteorological, and electrical apparatus as well. The firm became James Prentice & Son in 1883, and James Prentice & Son Company in 1897.

This compass was made around 1860, when Prentice was working at 66 Nassau St. The rim is graduated to 30 minutes. There is a north-south level vial on the north arm, and an east-west level on the south arm.

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