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Set of Drawing Instruments Sold by Sears Roebuck

Set of Drawing Instruments Sold by Sears Roebuck

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This unpolished wood and cardboard case is wrapped in packaging tape added by the donor for transporting the instruments. The set includes:
1) 5-1/4" and 4-1/4" steel drawing pens. The tightening screws on the spring blades are marked: SEARS ROEBUCK GERMANY.
2) 6" steel dividers. A pin in one leg latches to the other leg. The hinge is marked: SEARS ROEBUCK GERMANY.
3) 6" steel compass with one jointed leg and removable pencil point, pen point, and jointed lengthening bar. All parts except the pencil point are marked: SEARS ROEBUCK GERMANY. The lengthening bar is also marked: HAB. A divider point is apparently missing.
4) 3" metal handle. The remainder of this instrument, which had a point, is apparently missing.
5) 2" and 1-1/4" cylindrical metal cases. The larger has one graphite lead, one needle point, and two tops for screws. The smaller holds 5 graphite leads.
6) 3-3/4" bow dividers, bow pen, and bow pencil.
The donor (b. 1949) reported that his great-grandfather, Henry Arthur Botkin, owned this set. Botkin lived in Missouri and East Texas before the instruments were damaged in a 1903 family house fire. The case may thus be a later replacement and possibly is handmade.
The date of the instruments is uncertain. After advertising only watches and jewelry from 1888 to 1893, Sears Roebuck began issuing a general catalog in 1894. These objects do not resemble any of the drawing instruments advertised in the Spring 1896 (pp. 467–468), Fall 1897 (pp. 369–370), Fall 1899 (pp. 175–177), or Spring 1905 (pp. 370–371) Sears Roebuck catalogs. The bow pen, pencil, and dividers appear to have first been advertised in Spring 1911 (p. 746). This style of drawing compasses and pens still was not depicted by Spring 1914 (p. 792), when the outbreak of World War I interrupted the import of drawing instruments made in Germany. In Fall 1920 (p. 1200), Sears Roebuck offered a set of instruments like these (with only one lead case and no handle) from Keuffel & Esser's Pilot brand for $15.35. However, when European imports resumed in Spring 1921 (p. 602), none of the instruments advertised resembled these. By Spring 1925 (p. 507), Sears Roebuck sold Schoenner instruments.
Reference: "History of the Sears Catalog,"
Currently not on view
Object Name
drawing instruments, set of
date made
early 20th century
Sears, Roebuck and Co.
place made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
cardboard (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 1.5 cm x 24.5 cm x 11.5 cm; 19/32 in x 9 21/32 in x 4 17/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of John C. Botkin
Drafting, Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Drawing Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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"That is the original case. The leatherette covering, and the cloth interior has been removed. What is left is the wood skeleton, but it is original."

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