B. Rittenhouse Surveyor's Compass

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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
associated dates
Ellicott, Andrew
Douglas, Henry B.
Rittenhouse, Benjamin
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Newton
overall length: 13 1/2 in; 34.29 cm
needle: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
overall; compass: 7 3/8 in x 13 5/8 in x 6 5/8 in; 18.7325 cm x 34.6075 cm x 16.8275 cm
overall; attachment: 5 in x 2 1/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 12.7 cm x 5.715 cm x 3.81 cm
ID Number
accession number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History