Keuffel & Esser Model 1868 Semicircular Protractor

By the 20th century, the makers of drawing instruments transitioned to new and inexpensive materials, particularly for objects intended for student use. This semicircular xylonite protractor is divided by half-degrees and marked by tens from 0° to 180° in both the clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. An upside-down T marks the origin point. The maker's mark forms a circle to the left of the origin point: KEUFFEL & ESSER Co (/) N.Y. Above the origin point is the K&E product number (1868) and diameter in inches (6). The company logo, the top half of an eagle, is to the right of the origin point. Underneath the logo are the words TRADE MARK. There is a hole just above the maker's mark to the left of the origin point. Perhaps the hole enabled the owner to store the protractor in a notebook.
K&E marketed this protractor at least as early as 1909. It was intended to replace protractors made of horn. By 1936, K&E gave the instrument a new product number, 1276-6. This example of the protractor is yellowed and slightly warped.
Alfred John Betcher (1887–1971) used this protractor, perhaps at the University of Minnesota (1906) or at West Point (1907–1911). He was commissioned as a captain, served at posts in New York, Vermont, and Kentucky, and retired in 1939 at the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1940, he was elected mayor of Canajoharie, N.Y.
Reference: Catalogue of Keuffel & Esser (New York, 1909), 214. Biographical information in accession file.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Physical Description
xylonite (celluloid) (overall material)
overall: .2 cm x 15.2 cm x 8.4 cm; 3/32 in x 5 31/32 in x 3 5/16 in
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John A. Betcher
Additional Media

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