Colton Surveyor's Vernier Compass

This compass, marked "L. Colton New York" and "Warranted," has a variation arc on the north arm that extends 25 degrees either way. The vernier is moved by a tangent screw on the south arm, and reads to single minutes. There are two level vials on the south arm. The tangent screw and the decoration of the face (a circle of flowers and leaves) were typical features of New York compasses. The face reads clockwise. The word "Warranted" is Colton's guarantee of quality.
Joseph Wright (1798-1898) was born in North Carolina, and surveyed public lands in Florida in 1824. He probably bought this compass in preparation for his move to Texas in 1851. Wright also owned and used a jacob's staff (PH*323710) and a surveyor's chain (PH*323711).
Object Name
compass (surveyor's vernier)
date made
Wright, Joseph
Colton, Levi
overall length: 16 1/2 in; 41.91 cm
needle: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Surveying and Geodesy
American Stories
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
George L. Walling
Additional Media

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