Wing Dividers

These brass and steel dividers are joined by a ball-shaped hinge. The steel pointed tips of each leg are approximately 3-1/2" long. The brass portions continue for nearly another 9". A brass arc, or wing, with a circumference of approximately 8-1/2", joins the legs. A butterfly screw allows the arc to be removed. A wing nut tightens the adjustable leg so that the dividers are set in position. On the outsides of the legs, below the two screws, the dividers are stamped with wheels that have six spokes and a small circle at the center. According to a note in the accession file, this mark represents the heraldic symbol of the city of Osnabrück, Germany.
Dividers are alternatively called (non-drawing) compasses, or Zirkel in German. Draftsmen used them to measure distances and to create circles. This pair was probably manufactured in the 18th century.
Reference: Maya Hambly, Drawing Instruments: 1580–1980 (London: Sotheby's Publications, 1988), 69–79.
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
overall: 2 cm x 33 cm x 11.5 cm; 13/16 in x 13 in x 4 1/2 in
place made
Deutschland: Niedersachsen, Osnabrück
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Dividers and Compasses
Time and Navigation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Dividers and Compasses
Time and Navigation
Time and Navigation, National Air and Space Museum
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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