B. Rittenhouse Wye Level

Description
This wye level, one of the earliest made in America, is marked "Made by Benjn Rittenhouse." It was made around 1785, and owned by George Gilpin, the chief surveyor for the Potowmack Canal Navigation Company. Although this Canal Company had been organized in 1772, the project was shelved during the Revolution. It was resumed in 1785, and construction began the following year. Thomas Ellicott purchased the level at the sale of Gilpin's estate in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1813, and it remained in his family until its donation to the Smithsonian in 1997. The level vial of this instrument is mounted above the telescope. In the form that would become standard in the 19th century, the level hangs below the telescope.
Ref: Silvio A. Bedini, "The Telescopic Level in Early America," Rittenhouse 11 (1997): 109-123.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
level (wye)
maker
Rittenhouse, Benjamin
Measurements
telescope: 26 in; 66.04 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania
ID Number
1997.0353.01
accession number
1997.0353
catalog number
1997.0353.01
subject
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
Additional Media

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