Railroad Curves Associated with George Shattuck Morrison

Railroad Curves Associated with George Shattuck Morrison

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This set of thirty-one well-finished cardboard curves fits in a wooden case with metal hinges and clasps. One curve appears to be handmade. The inner and outer edges of a given curve are identical arcs of circles. The number marked on a curve is the radius of that circle. Radii range from 1 1/2" to 60." The curves are marked: 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2, 5, 5 1/2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 60. The handmade curve is marked: 10 1/12000. There is no maker's mark.
Railroad curves were used to draw the circular arcs representing track curves on railroad maps. The firm of Keuffel & Esser sold a set of thirty cardboard railroad curves like this from at least 1890 until at least 1921. In 1890, it also offered the curves in wood and hard rubber. By 1909, it sold them in plastic (Xylonite) as well. By 1936, K & E offered railroad curves only in plastic. Eugene Dietzgen Company of Chicago offered a similar set of thirty cardboard railroad curves from at least 1904 through at least 1931.
These instruments are associated with the American railroad bridge engineer George Shattuck Morison (1842-1903).
Eugene Dietzgen Company, Catalog, 1904, p. 219, 1908, p. 243, 1926, p. 228, 1931, p. 247.
Keuffel & Esser Company, Catalogue, 1890, p. 152, 1909 p. 228, 1921, p. 156, 1936, pp. 236-237.
Rolland A. Wallis, Industrial Education: Notes on Mechanical Drawing, Ames, Iowa: Engineering Extension Department Iowa State College, 1922, p. 24.
Accession file.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Curves, Set Of In Case
date made
ca 1890
Physical Description
wood (case material)
cardboard (curves material)
metal (hinges and clasps material)
overall: 9.3 cm x 37.9 cm x 6 cm; 3 21/32 in x 14 29/32 in x 2 3/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Christiana M. Leonard, Elting E. Morison, and John H. Morison
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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