Colton Surveyor's Compass

The floral decoration on the face of this compass is similar to that found on many other instruments made in New York around 1850. The rim is graduated every 30 minutes. A north–south level vial is on the north arm, and an east–west level vial is on the south arm. The signature reads "L. Colton, New York." As the tag on the south arm indicates, the compass belonged to the University of Pittsburgh.
Levi Colton (1803-1885) was born in Massachusetts, and trained as a jeweler and silversmith. He may have learned the art of instrument making from Richard Patten, for whom he worked in Washington, D.C. in 1846, and who described Colton as “a quite steady and industrious man.” Around 1850 Colton was making compasses in New York City, and in the mid-1850s he was making compasses in Hartford, Conn.
Currently not on view
Colton, Levi
overall length: 14 1/2 in; 36.83 cm
needle: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall in case: 4 3/8 in x 15 in x 7 5/16 in; 11.1125 cm x 38.1 cm x 18.57375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
University of Pittsburgh. Civil Engineering Department
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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