Surveyor's Compass

Surveyor's Compass

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This is a wooden compass with a paper card, the central circle of which is marked, “T. S. BOWLES*PORTSMOUTH, N. H.*” The signature refers to Thomas Salter Bowles, who was baptized in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1785. An advertisement in the Portsmouth Oracle for May 31, 1806, notes that Bowles was a mathematical instrument maker who had just taken a shop in Daniel Street, and that 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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
surveyor's compass
Bowles, Thomas Salter
place made
United States: New Hampshire, Portsmouth
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall length: 13 in; 33.02 cm
needle: 4 1/2 in; 11.43 cm
overall: 7 in x 13 in x 6 1/4 in; 17.78 cm x 33.02 cm x 15.875 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Surveying and Geodesy
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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