Rittenhouse and Evans Surveyor's Vernier Compass

This compass, marked "RITTENHOUSE & EVANS," was made by Benjamin Rittenhouse working in partnership with his nephew, Benjamin Evans, in Worcester Township, Pennsylvania, around 1798-1801. A variation arc on the south arm extends 15 degrees either way; the "folded" vernier is moved by rack and pinion and reads to 5 minutes. John Johnson (1771-1841), the Surveyor-General of Vermont, used this compass in 1817-1820 while surveying the boundary between Maine and Canada. His notes refer to it as "a Circumferentor of 2.5 inches Radius made at Philadelphia by Rittenhouse and Evans and graduated to every 5 Minutes by the help of a nonius."
Ref: "John Johnson" in Abby M. Hemenway, ed., The Vermont Historical Gazeteer (Burlington, Vt., 1868), vol. 1, pp. 596-599
"John Johnson," in National Cyclopaedia of American History, vol. 17, pp. 290-291
Johnson's report on the Maine-Canada boundary survey, in University of Vermont Library.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's vernier)
Johnson, John
Rittenhouse and Evans
overall length: 13 3/4 in; 34.925 cm
needle: 5 in; 12.7 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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