Brown & Sharpe 510 Draftsman's Protractor

See also ID number 1977.0460.01. After the inventor of this draftsman's protractor, Alton J. Shaw, left Darling, Brown & Sharpe of Providence, R.I., Samuel Darling patented a vernier scale that was a fraction of the size of a standard vernier scale. Darling then claimed to apply his vernier to the draftsman's protractor, replacing the original patent date in the maker's mark with the December 2, 1890, date of this patent. See, for example, the illustration in Brown & Sharpe's 1899 Catalogue No. 101 and Price Lists. This vernier read to only five minutes of accuracy, while Shaw's earlier vernier read to one minute of accuracy. Darling argued, however, that the coarser scale was easier to read and sufficed for most situations that arose in engineering drawing.
In any event, the draftsman's protractor continued to sell steadily into the 20th century. Advertisements extolled the instrument's versatility, including its ability to function as a drawing triangle and as an extension of a T-square. The original patent date reappeared on the instrument in 1902 and 1904 but disappeared again by 1916, by which time Brown & Sharpe also changed the protractor's catalog number from 530 to 510. Other dealers, including Keuffel & Esser, W. & L. E. Gurley, and L. S. Starrett, also sold the draftsmen's protractor.
The chief difference between this example of the instrument and ID number 1977.0460.01 is the reduced precision of the vernier, which is even marked: FIVE MINUTES. This protractor has 40 unmarked divisions, instead of 30. The signature is: 510; BROWN & SHARPE MFG. CO. (/) PROVIDENCE. R.I. U.S.A. The handle also bears the Brown & Sharpe logo of two rectangles at right angles to one another, with the letters B∙S above the horizontal rectangle and the words TRADE MARK below the horizontal rectangle. Of surviving 20th-century Brown & Sharpe catalogs, this protractor most closely resembles the illustration printed in 1925. The extending arm of the protractor is rusting.
The protractor is stored in a blue paper box covered with the company logo and the words BROWN & SHARPE. A label on one end of the lid reads: 510; ORDER BY NUMBER 599-510 (/) BROWN & SHARPE DRAFTSMEN'S PROTRACTOR (/) MADE IN U.S.A. A label on the other end of the lid reads: POST (/) 0585 (/) THE FREDERICK POST CO. CHICAGO. Post retailed scientific and drawing instruments in the 20th century. An undated sheet with tables of angles for dividing circles and for tapers per foot is in the box.
References: Samuel Darling, "Vernier-Scale" (U.S. Patent 442,020 issued December 2, 1890); Kenneth L. Cope, intro., A Brown & Sharpe Catalogue Collection, 1868 to 1899 (Mendham, N.J.: The Astragal Press, 1997); Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., Catalogue (Providence, R.I., 1902), 372; Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., Catalogue No. 138 (Providence, R.I., 1925), 504–505.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1925
Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
sheet steel (overall material)
overall: 1.5 cm x 27.5 cm x 16.8 cm; 19/32 in x 10 13/16 in x 6 5/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Alice W. Smith
Drafting, Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I also have one of the B&S model 510 protractors. What I would like to know, does anyone know what the patent number is? I would very much like to view the drawings. Thanks
"I have the model 510 in in a black, purple velvet lined hard case. It is in very good shape, the metal face is worn slightly from apparent use, and functions perfectly. The precision is impressive. Quite the tool."

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