Gurley Surveyor's Compass

The "W. & L. E. Gurley Troy, N. Y." signature-with its v–shaped trenches and lines of varying weight-was clearly engraved by hand. That means that this example was made between 1852, when the Gurleys began in business, and before the middle of 1876, when their new engraving machine was up and running. A level vial is on each arm, and an outkeeper is on the south arm. The sides of the vertical sights have a series of divisions, by which angles of elevation or depression can be read. The compass belonged to Bowdoin College. New, it cost $35.
Ref: W. & L. E. Gurley, A Manual of the Principal Instruments Used in American Engineering and Surveying (Troy, N. Y., 1871), pp. 14–22.
W. Skerritt, "W. & L. E. Gurley's Engraving Machine," Rittenhouse 11 (1997): 97–100.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's plain)
W. & L. E. Gurley
overall length: 15 in; 38.1 cm
needle: 5 in; 12.7 cm
place made
United States: New York, Troy
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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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