Gurley Surveyor's Compass

This compass was made between 1853 and 1859, and came from Gettysburg College. The "Jas. W. Queen, Philada. Warranted" signature indicates that James W. Queen sold the compass and guaranteed its quality. The style, however, indicates that it was made by W. & L. E. Gurley, the Troy, N. Y., firm that was rapidly becoming the largest producer of complex mathematical instruments in the United States. The Queen Catalogue of 1859 offered several compasses, levels, and transits, with illustrations and descriptions copied from the Gurley Manual of 1855. A compass of this sort, with 6-inch needle, two straight levels, outkeeper, and mounting for use on a Jacob staff, cost $30. A paper label inside the box reads “James W. Queen 264 Chestnut St., near 10th, Philadelphia.”
Ref: James W. Queen & Co., Illustrated Catalogue of Mathematical, Optical, and Philosophical Instruments and School Apparatus (Philadelphia, 1859), p. 14.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's plain)
date made
W. & L. E. Gurley
overall length: 15 7/8 in; 40.3225 cm
needle: 5 7/8 in; 14.9225 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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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