Signaling Mirror

Signaling Mirror

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Usage conditions apply
This signaling mirror was owned by Waldemar Semenov, whose career as a marine engineer aboard American merchant vessels spanned 54 years. He survived torpedo attacks during World War II, including one that sank the SS Alcoa Guide in 1942. Seven Americans lost their lives in the attack.
Signaling mirrors like this were produced in large quantities and issued to military personnel and merchant seamen alike. Small and compact, such mirrors could be used to signal for help over long distances. By aiming the mirror at the sun, the person in distress could signal the reflected flash of light for miles. Numerous improvements were made in the design of the sighting devices and the materials used in the construction of signal mirrors in the 1940s and 1950s. This model was manufactured by the Burton Manufacturing Company, probably in 1955-56.
The following instructions are inscribed on the back of the mirror:
1. Reflect sunlight from mirror onto a nearby surface, raft, hand, etc.
2. Slowly bring mirror up to eye level and look through sighting hole. You will see a bright light spot. This is the aim indicator.
3. Hold mirror close to the eye and slowly turn and so manipulate it that the bright light spot is on the target.
4. Even though no aircraft or ships are in sight, continue sweeping the horizon. Mirror flashes may be seen for many miles, even in hazy weather.
Object Name
emergency signaling mirror
date made
SS Alcoa Guide sank
Burton Manufacturing Company
German submarine sunk SS Alcoa Guide 300 miles east of Cape Hatteras
United States: North Carolina, Cape Hatteras
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
glass (overall material)
textile (part: cord material)
overall: 3 in x 5 in x 1/4 in; 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm x.635 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Waldemar Semenov
Postwar United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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