Bow Compass with Pen Point

This steel-spring instrument has an ivory handle, a point attached to one leg, and a penholder with adjusting screw on the other leg. The distance between the legs is adjusted with a pin and thumbscrew. The instrument resembles a Swiss bow pen sold around the turn of the 20th century by W. & L. E. Gurley (for $2.00) and by Keuffel & Esser (for $2.50). The manufacturer was probably not Kern & Co. of Aarau, Switzerland, as the Kern instruments advertised in the 1897 Sears Roebuck catalog have a different shape of ivory handle.
References: 1897 Sears Roebuck & Co. Catalogue (reprint; New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007), 369; Catalogue and Price-List of Keuffel & Esser Co., 23rd ed. (New York, 1892), 31; Catalogue and Price-List of Keuffel & Esser Co., 33rd ed. (New York, 1909), 63; A Manual of the Principal Instruments . . . Manufactured by W. & L. E. Gurley, 37th ed. (Troy, N.Y., 1903), 289; A Manual of the Principal Instruments . . . Manufactured by W. & L. E. Gurley, 39th ed. (Troy, N.Y., 1906), 289. This instrument does not appear in the 1921 K&E and 1912 Gurley catalogs.
Currently not on view
Object Name
compass, drawing
bow compass
date made
ca 1900
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
overall: 7.8 cm x 1.8 cm x .7 cm; 3 1/16 in x 23/32 in x 9/32 in
place made
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
Dividers and Compasses
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Dividers and Compasses
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Eunice L. Hoffman

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Approved comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about your own artifacts or comment on their value, rarity, or collectibility.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.