Beam Compass by Kern & Co.

Beam compasses were used to draw circles of large radius by positioning the sliding pieces on a wooden lath. This German silver instrument, also called a draftsman’s trammel, has a smaller sliding piece with a pencil point that may be exchanged for the pen point holder also contained in the case. The smaller sliding piece is engraved with the Kern logo, a K inside a pair of dividers. The larger sliding piece has a needle point. Either end of the needle point may be used.
The larger sliding piece is engraved with a maker’s mark: KERN & Co; AARAUSWISS. No beam, or wooden lath, is included, nor is there room for one in the case. The case is leather over wood, lined with maroon velvet and locked by a button on the side. The top of the case is imprinted with a rectangle that has a fleur-de-lis at each corner. The maker’s mark is stamped in gold: KERN & Co AARAU [/] SWITZERLAND. The owner’s card is inside the case, with “Property [/] of” written in cursive pencil and “L. N. EDWARDS” printed. Carolyn H. Edwards of Glen Echo, Md., bequeathed this beam compass set to the Smithsonian in 1971.
The marks on this compass are similar to those used by Kern between 1885 and 1926. For other instruments manufactured by Kern, see ID numbers MA*247966, 1977.0460.02, 1978.2291.01, and MA*321781.
Reference: Juerg Dedual, "How Old is My Kern & Co. AG Aarau?" Virtual Archive of WILD HEERBRUGG,
Currently not on view
Object Name
beam compass
beam compasses
date made
Kern & Co.
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
wood (overall material)
german silver (overall material)
leather (overall material)
overall: 13.5 cm x 5.8 cm x 2.5 cm; 5 5/16 in x 2 9/32 in x 31/32 in
place made
Schweiz: Aargau, Aarau
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Compasses, Beam
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
Bequest of Carolyn H. Edwards
Additional Media

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