Widdifield & Co. Set of Drawing Instruments

This mahogany case is lined with blue satin and velvet. Its lock is broken. The satin lining folds out to reveal a pocket. There is also a removable mahogany tray. A German silver label on the lid is marked: H. M. Doane. The set was received in 1975 with the following instruments:
1) 6" ivory rectangular protractor divided to single degrees and numbered by tens in both directions from 10 to 170. The interior has scales for 1/8" 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4", 7/8", and 1 inch to the foot. The interior also has a scale of chords. The bottom edge has a scale of half-inches, divided to 1/20" and numbered by ones from 1 to 22. This side of the protractor is marked: WIDDIFIELD & CO 148 WASHINGTON ST BOSTON. The back of the protractor bears scales dividing the inch into 60, 50, 45, 40, 35, and 30 parts; and a plotting scale with diagonal scales at each end.
2) 6-1/4" clear plastic semicircular protractor divided to half-degrees and numbered by tens from 0 to 180.
3) 5-3/8" German silver and steel fixed-leg dividers.
4) German silver pen, pencil, and pricker leg attachments that are the correct length for the 5-3/8" dividers.
5) 4" German silver and steel dividers with a removable leg and swiveling handle.
6) 3-1/4" steel bow pencil with ivory handle.
7) Two German silver and ivory drawing pens, one 4-7/8" and one 5-3/8" long.
8) Two blue metal joint tighteners.
9) Ten pieces of black rubber imprinted with cream and blue Chinese characters and partial pictures of men, some blowing pipes. It is likely that these pieces originally formed one or two objects.
10) 3/4" round slice of cork.
Pieces of writing and tissue paper are in the bottom of the case. Circles have been drawn on the writing paper, which is marked: D. S. G. Doane (/) Cohasset. Another slip of paper cut out from an advertisement is marked: D. S. G. DOANE. Two empty slots in the case suggest that some of the original instruments in the set are missing.
Daniel Brown Widdifield (1800–1862) made spectacles and optical and mathematical instruments in Boston beginning in 1828. From 1838 through at least 1879, his firm was known as Widdifield & Co. Although the name remained the same, his sons (Daniel B. Jr. and George F.) operated the business by 1860. Around 1869, the firm moved from 146 Washington Street to 34 West Street. If the plastic protractor is original, it suggests a date closer to 1868 than to 1838. It is uncertain how many of the instruments were made in Widdifield's shop and how many were imported from Europe.
David Stoddard Greenough Doane (1827–1895) worked as a mason, station agent, farmer, and well driller in Cohasset, Mass., at various times between 1850 and 1880. He also served as a bank trustee and justice of the peace, sold real estate, and operated a daguerreotype shop. He married Harriet Maria Parker (1828–1873) in 1854.
References: Boston Almanac; Boston Directory; "People: Widdifield and Company," Waywiser, Harvard University Department of the History of Science, http://dssmhi1.fas.harvard.edu/emuseumdev/code/eMuseum.asp?lang=EN; Alfred Alder Doane, ed., The Doane Family (Boston, 1902), 425; 1850–1880 U.S. Census records.
Currently not on view
Currently not on view
Object Name
drawing instruments, set of
date made
Widdifield & Co.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
german silver (overall material)
steel (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 4 cm x 19.7 cm x 13 cm; 1 9/16 in x 7 3/4 in x 5 1/8 in
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Drafting, Engineering
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of James H. Eames
Additional Media

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