Helffricht Surveyor's Vernier Compass

William Helffricht was born in Frankfurt in 1807, moved to Philadelphia in 1825, and became a citizen in 1830. By the early 1830s he had gone into business on his own, advertising as "Mathematical, Optical, & Philosophical Instrument Maker At the old established stand of the late Wm. DAVENPORT, Sign of the Quadrant, No. 25, South Front Street." Helffricht remained at this address until 1848.
This compass is marked "Wm Helffricht, Maker Philadelphia." It has a variation arc on the north arm that extends 25 degrees either way. The vernier reads to 5 minutes, and is moved by a rack and pinion under the south arm. There are two level vials on the south arm. A card in the wooden box reads "Wm. Helffricht No. 25 South Street, Philadelphia."
The compass was owned by Daniel Dunklin (1790-1844), who was elected governor of Missouri in 1832. Dunklin resigned the governorship in 1836, when Andrew Jackson named him surveyor-general of Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas. He probably bought the compass at this time, and used it to trace the boundary between Missouri and Arkansas, and to lay out numerous counties in these three states.
Ref: "Daniel Dunklin" in National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. 12, p. 303.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass (surveyor's vernier)
Helffricht, William
overall length: 14 in; 35.56 cm
needle: 5 in; 12.7 cm
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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

Visitor Comments

6/1/2015 9:17:50 PM
Jeff Heller
How many compasses did Wm. Helffricht Produce?
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