Lynch Surveyor's Compass

Some American surveyors and instrument makers working in the second half of the 18th century may have been familiar with Irish compasses like this one, which was probably made by the eldest of three men named James Lynch who worked in Dublin during the period 1767–1846.
This compass is made of brass, and the face is silvered. The rose reads counterclockwise, a feature that David Rittenhouse introduced to American practice in the 1760s. The vertical sights are held with a narrow and relatively flimsy bar. The graduated needle rim reads clockwise to 360 degrees, rather than in quadrants from north and south as was usually the case. Another graduation is at the outer edge of the face, numbered in quadrants from north and south. The compass box can be detached from the bar. The face is marked "Lynch * Dublin *."
Ref: J. E. Burnett and A. D. Morrison–Low, "Vulgar and Mechanick" The Scientific Instrument Trade in Ireland 1650–1921 (Dublin, 1989), pp. 29–35.
Gloria Clifton, Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550–1851 (London, 1995).
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's plain)
Lynch, James
overall length: 18 1/4 in; 46.355 cm
needle: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
place made
Republic of Ireland: Leinster, Dublin, Dublin
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
maker referenced
Clifton, Gloria and Gerard L. E. Turner. Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851
Burnett, J. E.; Morrison-Low, A. D.. Vulgar and Michanick: Scientific Instrument Trade in Ireland, 1650-1921
Additional Media

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.