This instrument was probably made in London in the mid-18th century. Its basic form-with the telescope mounted on the curved side of a semicircle-derives from the design that Thomas Heath introduced in 1725. The horizontal circle and vertical arc are graduated every degree and read by verniers to 10 minutes. The words "Diff: Hypo & Base" on the telescope support and the scales labeled "Feet" and "Links" on the vertical arc are used to correlate angle of elevation or depression with horizontal distances. In addition to the telescope, there is a pair of open sight vanes. A level vial is mounted above the telescope.
This theodolite belonged to Orange Warner Ellis, a surveyor who lived in Odelltown, a village along the Richelieu River, a few miles north of New York State. Odelltown was settled by Joseph Odell, a Loyalist from Poughkeepsie who moved from the United States to Lower Canada in 1788, in order to remain under British rule. Odelltown was later seen as a Britannic outpost in a Francophone region of Quebec.
Ref: J. A. Bennett, The Divided Circle (Oxford, 1987), pp. 86, 146-147.
Currently not on view
Object Name
overall: 7 1/2 in; 19.05 cm
horizontal circle: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
needle: 2 1/2 in; 6.35 cm
telescope: 7 1/2 in; 19.05 cm
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
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
Bennett, J. A.. Divided Circle. A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying
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.