Plain Dividers Retailed by Keuffel & Esser

These plain dividers have grooved brass legs with steel points and are held together with a screw. Two small holes are in the joint on either side of the bottom end of the screw. The instrument arrived at the Smithsonian in a case (now lost) marked: Keuffel & Esser Co., New York. The dividers are similar to the 4-1/2" plain dividers from Switzerland advertised (without a case) in James Queen's 1883 catalog for $1.50. The instrument slightly resembles 4-1/4" plain dividers from France sold by K&E in the 1880s and 1890s for between 24 and 85 cents. It is not depicted in K&E's 1909 and 1936 catalogs.
References: James W. Queen & Co., Priced and Illustrated Catalogue of Mathematical Instruments (Philadelphia, 1883), 22; Catalogue and Price-List of Keuffel & Esser Co., 23rd ed. (New York, 1892), 62, 102; Trade Price List. An Annex to the General Catalogue (Twenty-Eighth Edition) of Keuffel & Esser Co. (New York, n.d.), 30.
Currently not on view
date made
late 19th century
place made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
overall: .9 cm x 11 cm x 1 cm; 11/32 in x 4 11/32 in x 13/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Eunice L. Hoffman
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Dividers and Compasses
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I have a little 2 1/2" one just like it but not with a screw. It is nearly pristine and so finely made and pretty that it could be worn as jewelry.

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