Ball Dry Card Compass

This is a model for the mariner’s compass with glass bowl for which Jonathan Ball received a patent in 1835. It can be used as a tell-tale compass because the card is legible from above and below. This model is probably a reconstruction, made after the original was destroyed when the U.S. Patent Office burned in 1836. The Patent Office transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1926. The inscriptions read "J. BALL. PATENT" and "Engraved by W. HOOKER New York." William Hooker was an engraver who also sold charts and instruments for nautical use.
Ref: "For an Improvement in the Mariners’ Compass; Jonathan Ball, Buffaloe [sic], Erie County, New York, March 6," Journal of the Franklin Institute 16 (1835): 234-235.
Currently not on view
Object Name
dry card compass
overall: 5 3/4 in x 9 in; 14.605 cm x 22.86 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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