Wooden Pantograph by Molteni Once Owned by the United States Surveyor’s Office, with Case

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The pantograph consists of four black wooden rods joined by brass joints. Two are 19 5/8" (50 cm.) long. The other two are 11 1/4" (8 cm.) and 9 ¼: (23.5 cm.) long. The brass fulcrum joining the two longer bars rests on a metal wheel. One short bar is attached to each long bar, about half way down its length. The short bars are joined opposite the fulcrum. An iron weight attaches to one of the long bars, a tracer point is attached to one of the short bars, and a tracer point attaches to the other long bar (why neither of these is a pencil point is unclear). The positions of the weight and the points are moved to change the amount of enlargement or reduction. There are some holes for a thread to help in aligning the points, but not a sufficient number – and the thread is lacking The instrument fits in a plain wooden case which has a brass handle and metal hinges and fasteners. Two adjacent rods are marked from 1:2 to 1:8. Another tracer point on a slide and with a metal point that fits into a support for a brass wheel is in the wooden case. Also in the bag are 2 metal pieces which have apparently broken off of the pantograph. The case also contains a 16cm X 10cm lead weight, which is placed on one of the outer legs as an anchor.
A mark written in ink on the inside of the lid reads: Property of the (/) United States (/) Surveyor General’s Office.
Compare MA.333850 to MA.314869, which it closely resembles. The latter pantograph was designed by L. Blondeau, a geographical draftsman employed by the Bureau des Cartes et Plans of the French Ministry of War. It was manufactured by Molteni & Cie., opticians and manufacturers in Paris. Because of the close similarity in the design and details of the two pantographs, it seems very likely that this pantograph also was manufactured by Molteni. That firm sold pantographs of this design from the 1840s until at least 1859 – perhaps until the firm dissolved in 1899. The United States Surveyor General’s Office was established in 1796 and operated until the 1920s.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1870
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
lead (overall material)
overall: 10.5 cm x 52.7 cm x 14.3 cm; 4 1/8 in x 20 3/4 in x 5 5/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Transfer from U.S. Bureau of Land Management
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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