Chandlee Surveyor's Compass

This compass bears two distinct inscriptions: "G*CHANDLEE W." refers to the maker, and "J:J: WELSH" refers to the owner (who has yet to be identified). Goldsmith Chandlee (1751-1821) was born in Nottingham, Md., and apprenticed with his father Benjamin Chandlee, himself a notable clock and instrument maker. Goldsmith moved to Stephensburg, Va., in 1775. The W on this compass refers to Winchester, Va., where Chandlee settled in 1783.
Some 22 Goldsmith Chandlee compasses are known today, and almost all have an L/T table. In this example, the table appears on the south arm. This L/T table converts links of a chain to tenths of perches, and vice versa, thus helping the surveyor determine the length of the line that had been run. A perch, in England and the United States, was equal to 16.5 feet.
All Goldsmith Chandlee compasses have an outkeeper (an attachment to keep a tally in chaining). In this example, the outkeeper appears at the south end of the face. Most Goldsmith Chandlee compasses were made to order, and the name of the original owner is engraved on the face.
Ref: Edward E. Chandlee, ed., Six Quaker Clockmakers (Philadelphia, 1943), pp. 105-146.
Richard Elgin, "On Goldsmith Chandlee," Professional Surveyor 21 (December 2001): 16-26.
Object Name
compass (surveyor's plain)
Chandlee, Goldsmith
overall length: 14 1/2 in; 36.83 cm
needle: 6 in; 15.24 cm
place made
United States: Virginia, Winchester
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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
maker referenced
Chandlee, Edward E.. Six Quaker Clockmakers
Additional Media

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