Japanese Protractor, 1876 World's Fair


The Japanese Empire Department of Education displayed this circular brass protractor at the 1876 World's Fair, the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. A notch for accessing the origin point is cut into the fourth quadrant of the crossbars spanning the diameter of the protractor. The protractor is marked every thirty degrees in the clockwise direction with Japanese characters for the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac: mouse, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog, and boar. The top of each symbol faces the center of the protractor.

The government of Japan aimed to demonstrate its nation's modernity and progress. In fact, Japan's Department of Education had just been established in 1870 to replace an Educational Board and to assume a more active role in the management of primary, middle, and secondary schools. John Eaton, the U.S. Commissioner of Education, arranged for the transfer of the entire exhibit in which this protractor appeared to the Bureau of Education (then part of the Department of the Interior) for a planned museum. The museum closed in 1906 due to high maintenance costs, and much of the collection was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1910. No information about the maker of this protractor is known.

See also ID Number MA.261306.

References: Japan, Department of Education, An Outline History of Japanese Education: Prepared for the Philadelphia International Exhibition, 1876 (New York: D. Appleton, 1876), 121–122, 191–202; U.S. Centennial Commission, International Exhibition, 1876. Reports and Awards, ed. Francis A. Walker (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880), viii:143, 335; U.S. Bureau of Education, Annual Report of the Commissioner (1876), ccxi–ccxii.

Date Made: 1876

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Japan

Subject: MathematicsProtractorExpositions and Fairs


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Science & Mathematics, Protractors


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Transfer from Bureau of Education, Department of the Interior

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.261305Accession Number: 51116Catalog Number: 261305

Object Name: protractor

Physical Description: brass (overall material)Measurements: overall: .1 cm x 10.7 cm x 10.7 cm; 1/32 in x 4 7/32 in x 4 7/32 in

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a7-7341-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_904463

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.