Surveyor's Compass


Wooden surveyor's compass with a paper card, the central circle of which is marked, “T. S. BOWLES*PORTSMOUTH, N. H.*” Thomas Salter Bowles was baptized in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1785. According to an advertisement in the Portsmouth Oracle for May 31, 1806, he was a mathematical instrument maker who had just taken a shop in Daniel Street, and his wares included “Azimuth and brass Compasses, wood and Hanging Compasses.” Bowles was still in business in 1821. Several Bowles compasses with different cards are known. Unlike most wooden compasses, this one has a brass band around the outside of the box, and a brass needle ring graduated to 1 degree of arc.

Ref: Silvio A. Bedini, Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers (Washington, D.C., 1964), pp. 124-126.

Maker: Bowles, Thomas Salter

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: New Hampshire, Portsmouth

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences, Surveying and Geodesy, Measuring & Mapping


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: Bedini, Silvio A.. Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1987.0706.01Accession Number: 1987.0706Catalog Number: 1987.0706.01Accession Number: 1987.0706

Object Name: surveyor's compass

Physical Description: wood (overall material)Measurements: overall length: 13 in; 33.02 cmneedle: 4 1/2 in; 11.43 cmoverall: 7 in x 13 in x 6 1/4 in; 17.78 cm x 33.02 cm x 15.875 cm


Record Id: nmah_758674

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