B. Rittenhouse Surveyor's Compass

Andrew Ellicott had several compasses made by Benjamin Rittenhouse. This one is inscribed "B. Rittenhouse" and "A. ELLICOTT." It remained in his family until a descendant donated it to the Smithsonian. A remarkably similar compass, with the same signatures, is found at Fort Necessity National Battleground. For his survey of the southern boundary of the United States in the late 1790s, Ellicott used a vernier compass made by Benjamin Rittenhouse.
Ref: The Journal of Andrew Ellicott, Late Commissioner on Behalf of the United States During Part of the Year 1796, the Years 1797, 1798, 1799 and Part of the Year 1800 For Determining the Boundary Between the United States and the Possessions of His Catholic Majesty in America (Philadelphia, 1803).
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's plain)
Ellicott, Andrew
Douglas, Henry B.
Rittenhouse, Benjamin
overall length: 13 1/2 in; 34.29 cm
needle: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
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

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