Keuffel & Esser Hairspring Compass

This metal drawing instrument is heavily corroded. It has a cylindrical handle, grooves that allow the user to open the legs just a small amount, a thumbscrew adjusting the hairspring in the leg with the pencil point, and screws for adjusting the needle and pencil points. The legs are jointed, but they are too rusted to bend. The inside of the leg with the pencil point is marked near the top: KEUFFEL & ESSER N.Y.
This instrument is advertised as model number 205 in K&E's 1881 catalog. It does not appear in the 1876 or 1892 catalogs. Gunther Mathies, a relative of the donor, emigrated from Germany in the early 20th century and worked for the Thomaston (Conn.) Clock Company. He also did photography, drafting, and surveying in the area during the Depression, and he may have acquired this object in the course of those endeavors.
References: Michael Scott-Scott, Drawing Instruments (Aylesbury, England: Shire Publications Ltd., 1986), 5–6; Catalogue and Price-List of Keuffel & Esser Co., 9th ed. (New York, 1881); accession file.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Physical Description
german silver (overall material)
steel (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall: 1.2 cm x 15.5 cm x 1.6 cm; 15/32 in x 6 3/32 in x 5/8 in
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Dividers and Compasses
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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