Queen and Company Railroad Curves

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Description
This is a set of thirty-eight railroad curves, instruments used to draw track curves on railroad maps. The long edges of the curves are arcs of circles. A number stamped on a curve indicates the radius of the corresponding circle in inches. The numbers are: 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18, 20, 23, [missing: 25], 28, 30, 33, 35, 38, 40, 43, 45, 48, 50, 53, 55, 58, 60, 63, 65, 68, 70, 73, 75, 78, 80, 83, 85, 88, 90, 93, 95, 98, 100. Hence the radii of the circles range from six inches to one hundred inches. The letter Q is also stamped on each of the curves. This corresponds to the trademark of James W. Queen & Company of Philadelphia, as shown on the cover of an 1887 catalog of the company.
Queen and Company sold railroad curves from at least 1874 (they are not listed in the firm’s 1859 or 1868 catalogues). A drawing in the 1880 and 1883 catalogues suggests that the hard rubber versions of these curves were marked: J.W. Queen & Co., rather than with the Q trademark. A set of forty-three curves of wood is mentioned in the 1874, 1876, and 1877 catalogs, and described more precisely in the 1880 and 1883 catalogs. The earlier catalogs indicate only that the set included 43 curves with radii ranging from 3 ½ inches to 200 inches. The later catalogs describe the specific radii, which do not progress as in this set. Queen also sold sets of curves to order, and this might be one of those. The trademark stamped on the instruments is one that appears on the title page of 1887 and 1893 James W. Queen catalog, but not on either earlier or later catalogs.
This set of curves came to the Smithsonian from the physics department of Bowdoin College. Authorities there suggested that it might date from the period 1871 to 1883, when Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain served as president of the college. He tried to start an engineering program, with an emphasis on civil engineering. This program ended when Chamberlain left, and engineering instruments might have been distributed to science departments. While Queen was selling railroad curves during the time of Chamberlain’s presidency, it is not clear whether it was using the Q logo found on this particular set of curves.
References:
Accession File.
James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue of Mathematical Instruments, Philadelphia and New York, 1874, p. 51.
James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue and Descriptive Manual of Mathematical Instruments and Materials, Philadelphia, 1876, p. 52.
James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue of Mathematical Instruments..., Philadelphia, 1877, p. 52.
James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue and Descriptive Manual of Mathematical Instruments and Materials, Philadelphia, 1880, p. 52.
James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue..., 1887. pp. 76-78, title page.
James W. Queen & Co., Catalogue of Mathematical and Engineering Instruments and Materials, Philadelphia, 1893, pp. 89-91, title page.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1890
maker
Queen and Company
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 4.8 cm x 39 cm x 5.3 cm; 1 7/8 in x 15 11/32 in x 2 3/32 in
ID Number
2003.0047.01
accession number
2003.0047
catalog number
2003.0047.01
Credit Line
Bowdoin College
subject
Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Curves
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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