Brunton Pocket Transit

Brunton Pocket Transit

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Usage conditions apply
The Brunton Pocket Transit was said to be "the most convenient, compact and accurate pocket instrument made for preliminary surveying on the surface or underground." It has a folding sight at north. The lid of the instrument, hinged at south and provided with sight line and small hole, serves as the second sight. Since the lid is mirrored, the user can read the needle while sighting a distant object. The needle ring is graduated to degrees. The western half of the face is graduated in degrees, in quadrants from west, and provided with a clinometer with vernier that reads to 5 minutes. The sides of the case and lid are flat, and so the instrument can be set up vertically when used for vertical angles. This example is marked "D. W. BRUNTON'S PAT. SEPT. 18, 1894 APR. 14, 1914 WM. AINSWORTH & SONS SOLE MANUFACTURERS PAT. OCT. 2, 12. MAY 27. 13. DENVER, COLO. U. S. A. 14711." It was owned by the University of Missouri at Columbia, and was probably made between 1915 and 1919.
David W. Brunton (died 1927), a Canadian–born surveyor working in Colorado, invented this instrument after growing tired of carrying heavy equipment through the Rocky Mountains. He obtained his first patent (#526,021) in 1894, and subsequent patents in 1912 (#1,042,079), 1913 (#1,062,582), and 1914 (#1,092,822). The Wm. Ainsworth Co. of Denver began marketing these instruments in 1896, and by 1899 had sold more than 200 units. The firm became Wm. Ainsworth & Sons in 1905. The Brunton pocket transit remains in production today in Riverton, Wyoming.
Ref: Wm. Ainsworth & Sons, Catalog BX of Precision Engineering and Surveying Instruments (Colorado, 1908), p. 62.
Peter von Gitter, "The Brunton Pocket Transit, A One Hundred Year Old North American Invention," Earth Sciences History 14 (1995): 98–102.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Pocket Compass
William Ainsworth and Sons
place made
United States: Colorado, Denver
overall: 1 in x 2 3/4 in x 2 3/4 in; 2.54 cm x 6.985 cm x 6.985 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 2 3/4 in x 3 1/8 in; 3.175 cm x 6.985 cm x 7.9375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
University of Missouri-Columbia, Department of Civil Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Surveying and Geodesy
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I have this transit mfg. Ainsworth & sons, Denver Instrument Co, Letz Japan & Brunton Riverton, Wy. Also M2 units the Army version.
I commented earlier and I was comparing mine with the photograph posted on this site and I noticed mine has an extra (PAT. JULY 20 1926) between DENVER, COLO. U. S. A. and the # stamped (16471). Can anyone tell me why that is?
I found one today in the trash. I can't believe someone would have thrown it away. I first thought it was an old chalkline box, so I picked it up from the ground. It was laying next to a heap of trash. Threw it in my pocket and went on my way. I got home tonight and started to examine it and said to myself "wow a cool compass" then I saw the engraving and it read D. W. BRUNTONS. PAT. SEPT 18 1834. APR. 14 1914 Wm AINSWORTH&SONS SOLE MANUFACTURERS PAT. OCT 22.12 MAY07. 13 DENVER, COLO. U. S. A. PAT. JULY 20, 1926. 15471. SO COOL.
I have one also from my grandfather, but the top of it where it indicates "D.W, Brunton...." has as metal plaque attached that also indicates a number of mathematical formulas, "Natural Sines, etc.
The one I have too. But this one has additional engravings. On the left side going up and down "U.S.C.G.-W.R." and one the right going up and down the numbers "1649". It also came in a leather carrying case.
"Hello,I have my grandfather's pocket transit that is identical to the one shown. I have the leather case that goes with it. He was a mining engineer in Rico/Orray during 1905-1911, and then came to Salt Lake to be a mining engineer at Kennecott.How rare are these pocket transits?"
I also have such a pocket transit inherited from my grandfather was a mining and civil engineer in the early 1900s. He worked in the west and in Colorado, California and did some hydroelectric work further south. The number at the bottom is 9719.
I just found a pocket transit in a leather holder. The number on the bottom is 30622. I love finding things that belonged to my ancestors. Interesting, to say the least. Looks in perfect condition. Now, have to figure out how to use it.
"Wendy, I too have my Grandfathers old pocket transit. I think they're worth more to us than they are to anyone else. Perhaps one day that will change but it's cool knowing my Grandfather held it when he was searching for uranium on the east side of Wyoming! :) "

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