Case of Mismatched Drawing Instruments

This polished wood case has a metal plate on the lid and is fastened with brass hooks (one is missing). The case is lined with burgundy silk and velvet. The case and instruments appear to have been assembled separately, because there are more instruments than slots in the case and the styles of the instruments do not match. The case contains:
1) 4-1/4" clear plastic protractor (held in a compartment inside the lid), divided to single degrees and numbered by tens in both directions from 0 to 180.
2) 6-1/4" brass folding square. The outer edge of one leg has a centimeter scale, numbered from 1 to 15, with the first centimeter divided to millimeters. This leg is marked: NLLE MESURE. The outer edge of the other leg has a scale divided to 1-1/16", numbered from 5 to 1, with the first unit divided into twelfths. This leg is marked: ANC MESURE. The scale thus represents a pre-metric French inch. A rectangular hole with a rounded end is cut out of this leg, and the leg has a pinhole for suspending a weight on a string. This instrument is the oldest in the case and probably dates to around 1800.
3) 12" section of a four-fold wooden rule with brass hinge and tip. One side is divided to 1/8" and numbered by ones from 23 to 13. The other side is divided to 1/16" and numbered by ones from 11 to 1. The other half of the rule is missing. Compare to 1990.0099.01 and MA*335275.
4) 4-1/4" German silver extension bar and 3" divider and pen points that do not fit the dividers in the case.
5) 1-18" brass tack that appears to hold ink.
6) 4-1/2" ivory and steel drawing pen with a brass adjusting screw.
7) 7/8" metal joint tightener.
8) 3-3/4" brass and steel dividers with removable divider and pencil points.
9) 4-7/8" German silver and steel fixed-point dividers.
10) 2-5/8" brass and steel pen point that does not fit the dividers in the case.
11) 2" brass pencil point that does not fit the dividers in the case.
12) 3-1/8" curved steel needle point in brass holder; its function is not known.
13) Extra brass adjusting screw, metal plate with one screw, and crudely cut metal circle marked: PEN.
The donors' family was prominent in the history of American science. John William Draper (1811–1882) was a chemist who also made innovations in photography. He had three sons: John C. Draper (1835–1885), who was a physician and chemist; Henry Draper (1837–1882), who was an astronomical photographer; and Daniel Draper (1841–1931), who established the New York Meteorological Observatory in Central Park in 1868 and directed it until 1911.
References: Maya Hambly, Drawing Instruments, 1580–1980 (London: Sotheby's Publications, 1988); Robert S. Harding and Jeffrey L. Tate, "Draper Family Collection, ca. 1826–1936," Archives Center, National Museum of American History,
Currently not on view
Currently not on view
Object Name
drawing instruments, set of
date made
ca 1800-1920
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
german silver (overall material)
steel (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
overall: 2.5 cm x 19.5 cm x 10.7 cm; 31/32 in x 7 11/16 in x 4 7/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Drafting, Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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