James Reed & Co. Surveyor's Compass

This compass, which was designed to measure horizontal and vertical angles on hilly ground or in mines, resembles the one that the American surveyor, Lucius Lyon, described in 1828. It also resembles the Hedley's dial, devised in 1850 by John Hedley, H. M. Inspector of Mines in England. This example consists of a gimbal mounted vernier compass, a vertical arc, a sighting telescope, and a hanging level. The variation arc and vernier mechanisms are located on the compass face, under glass and protected from harm. The vertical arc is solid, graduated to 30 minutes, and read by vernier to single minutes. The signature reads "JAMES REED & CO. Pittsburg, Pa. No. 383."
James Reed (1792-1878) was listed in the Pittsburgh directories in 1847 as a watch maker and jeweller. He began trading as James Reed & Co. in 1850, and in 1852 advertised as "Manufacturers of theodolites, surveyors compasses, leveling & grading instruments, &c."
Ref: Lucius Lyon, "Observations on Surveying Instruments, and the means of remedying their imperfections," American Journal of Science 14 (1828): 268-275.
William Ford Stanley, Surveying and Levelling Instruments (London, 1901), pp. 311-319.
Currently not on view
James Reed & Co.
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
telescope: 17 3/4 in; 45.085 cm
overall: 8 3/4 in x 19 3/8 in x 8 1/2 in; 22.225 cm x 49.2125 cm x 21.59 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gerhard Derge
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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