COLLECTION: Tools & Equipment

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Surveying compass

ca. 1805
Origin: America, Southeast, Virginia, Winchester
OL: 14 1/4"
Brass, steel, glass, silver
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1982-145,1A-C
Surveyor's plain compass consisting of compass dial and base (a) and detachable sighting vanes (b and c) that can be secured in place by two threaded screws or knobs. The compass card and scale are silvered; the needle is blued steel. The compass also includes two spirit levels. In addition to the customary geometric and floral decoration, the dial is engraved with an eagle holding in its beak a banner reading "American Manufacture." Compass is also equipped with an outkeeper. A knob on the underside operates a ratcheted disk and a small hand. When turned one click, the number on the disk seen through the small aperture in the outkeeper dial advances by 1 (up to 16), and a pointer moves counterclockwise around the dial. A table engraved on the southern arm is used with the knob and dial to tabulate distance. (See reference notes). The original field case survives with the compass (1982-145, 2).
Label:The surveyor’s compass was a pivotal tool in the mapping and settlement of the southern Backcountry. By the beginning of the 19th century, compasses made by Goldsmith Chandlee of Winchester, Virginia, were renowned for both their quality and beauty. Goldsmith was the son and grandson of scientific instrument makers. Ironically, it was a surveyor’s compass in the hands of mapmakers Mason and Dixon that changed the designation of Nottingham, his hometown, from Pennsylvania to Maryland in the late 1760s.

This compass is exceptional for the engraving on its dial. Featured are an eagle clutching a banner inscribed “AMERICAN MANUFACTURE,” and Chandlee’s signature alongside “WINCHESTER.” Chandlee also produced sundials and tall case clocks.

Provenance:Christie, Manson & Woods, Ltd., New York
Inscription(s):"G. CHANDLEE WINCHESTER" and an eagle with "AMERICAN MANUFACTURE" engraved on dial.