Draper Surveyor's Vernier Compass

This compass, marked "Edmund Draper 468 Philada," dates from around 1876. It has a variation arc on the north arm that extends 28 degrees to either side; the vernier is moved by rack and pinion, and reads to 5 minutes. Two spirit levels are on the south arm.
Edmund Draper (1805–1882) apprenticed with Benjamin Stancliffe in Philadelphia and worked in partnership with him for a few years. By 1832 he was in business on his own, making and repairing "Theodolites, Engineer’s Levels, Surveyor’s Compasses, &c." He also built a dividing engine. The only other dividing engine in the United States at that time was one built by William J. Young, also of Philadelphia. Since Draper never published a catalog or price list, it is difficult to know how many different instruments he made, or how much each one cost. He apparently began using serial numbers around 1860, and produced some 28 instruments a year.
Ref: Robert C. Miller, "Benjamin Stancliffe and His Successors: A Century of Mathematical Instrument Makers in Philadelphia," Rittenhouse 11 (1996): 1–13.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's vernier)
date made
ca 1876
Draper, Edmund
overall length: 15 1/4 in; 38.735 cm
needle: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Museum of Science and Industry

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