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Ernst Alfred Bostrom (1855-1923) was a Swedish immigrant who worked as a machinist for the telephone company in Atlanta, Georgia. After enrolling with the International Correspondence School, he advanced to foreman and then to superintendent. He formed the Bostrom-Brady Manufacturing Co. in 1901 and began manufacturing a simple and inexpensive farm level of his own design. The Bostrom Convertible Level followed some years later, and could be used as either a transit or a level. Alfred Droke used this example while working with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. The inscription reads "MFD. BY BOSTROM-BRADY MFG. CO. ATLANTA, GA." That on the box reads "BOSTROM SURVEYING INSTRUMENTS MODEL NO. 5 SERIAL NO. 47 BOSTROM-BRADY MFG. CO. ATLANTA, GA. U.S.A."
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1935
Bostrom-Brady Mfg. Co.
place made
United States: Georgia, Atlanta
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 16 cm; 6 5/16 in
telescope: 26 cm; 10 1/4 in
graduated circle: 4 in; 10.16 cm
box: 30 cm x 15 cm x 18 cm; 11 13/16 in x 5 29/32 in x 7 3/32 in
overall in case: 7 5/8 in x 12 in x 6 1/16 in; 19.3675 cm x 30.48 cm x 15.39875 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I have had one of these instruments for about 30 years. It was given to me by a lifelong friend who's father was an early registered engineer in California, for whom I actually worked as a teen-ager. Perhaps chaining from under this gun. I am a California Registered Professional Land Surveyor and have been authorized to practice Land Surveying in California since 1970. The box my instrument is in resembles the one in the photo, but with a different latch and no metalic tag. The instrument is in good working condition, but has some screw thread damage, quite good condition for being 80 years old. There is a repair tag in the box from the A. Lietz Company, their San Francisco office, that seems to have been indexed in 1957. They have hand written on the tag, "#1274 10357" which might indicate repairs in October 1957. I am interested to know if the Model No. and Serial No. only appear on the box or if there are any numbers on the instrument. I can find none.
For many years, I have had one of these Bostrom Model 5 Convertible Levels, given to me by my father (b. 1911). It was either his or his father's. I do not know where he obtained it. They and I used it to determine straight lines for fences and to grade for drainage. I recently brought it out to estimate the below-grade elevation of my sewer line at the curb in front of my home, based on a municipal construction survey which provides the elevations of the main near my tap and a nearby manhole cover. In looking at it, I wondered when it was made, so I searched Google using "Bostrom Surveying Instruments Model 5" and this webpage from the Smithsonian NMAH was returned. It caught my eye that the entry states that the box in the museum is labeled "serial number 47." The box for my instrument is also labeled "serial number 47". Could this be an entry error in the museum catalog record, or did Bostrom label more than one box with this serial number?
I purchased one of these instruments a few days ago in Manchester, NH. Same model and serial number as Kenneth Anderson's and the museum's. Apparently serial numbers mean something different to Bostrom. It seems that the instrument itself should have some unique identifying markings but I have not found any. Can you explain the redundant serial numbers and how to identify one instrument from another?
From South Africa; My Grandfather used this Bostrom Model No.4 farm level on his farm, in the Karoo area of South Africa. He used it to level out crop fields under flood irrigation and various water channels on the farm. He must have bought the level at some local farm equipment supplier in the late 1930's or 1940's. The level, tripod and measuring staff is now in my possession. I had to Google the name to see the origin of the Level. Amazing the distance the equipment traveled. I am still residing in South Africa, not far form where my Grandfather farm used to farm.

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