Roach Wye Level

This instrument is marked "John Roach Maker San Francisco 730" and dates from the period 1855-1891 when Roach was living and working in San Francisco. The United States Geological Survey transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1907. Roach illustrated his advertisement in the San Francisco Directory for 1886 with a cut of a similar instrument.
John Roach (1813–1891) was born in Ireland. By 1833 he was in New York, identifying himself as an instrument maker. He joined in partnership with Henry Warner soon thereafter. Advertising in the American Railroad Journal for 1837, Roach & Warner offered to supply "Wholesale Dealers and Country Merchants" with surveying compasses and other instruments "of their own manufacture, warranted accurate and at lower prices than can be had at any other establishment." This advertisement reflects an appreciation of the westward expansion of the country, as well as a concern for price at a time when America was experiencing a severe economic depression. By 1841 Roach was again in business on his own, offering daguerreotype materials (this photographic technique had been introduced in Paris in 1839) as well as other optical and philosophical apparatus. He moved to San Francisco in 1855, and was soon the leading instrument dealer on the West Coast. At his death, he was succeeded by his longtime employee, J. C. Sala.
Currently not on view
Object Name
level (wye)
Roach, John
overall: 9 in x 4 7/8 in x 21 5/8 in; 22.86 cm x 12.3825 cm x 54.9275 cm
place made
United States: California, San Francisco
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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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