Simpson Surveyor's Vernier Compass

This compass, marked "J. SIMPSON BARDSTOWN KY," has an unusual and ornate face decorated with Masonic symbols. The variation arc on the north arm extends 10 degrees in either way; the vernier is moved by rack and pinion, and reads to 10 minutes. A level vial is on the south arm. The signature refers to Jonathan Simpson (1787-1863), who was was working in Kentucky by 1820, and who advertised in the Bardstown newspaper, The Republican, on October 3, 1844: "I shall keep on hand a constant supply of SILVERWORK of my own manufacture-warranted to be as good as any manufactured in the United States, and at the Cincinnati prices. My necessities compel me to labour as much as ever I did. I have a few Surveying instruments on hand, which I will sell very low."
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's vernier)
Simpson, Jonathan
overall length: 15 1/4 in; 38.735 cm
needle: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
place made
United States: Kentucky, Bardstown
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
Fordham University

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.