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Antique American Surveying Transits

Past Sales Archive

This is just a sample of the many antique surveying instruments we have sold.
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Special Note Concerning Prices Seen Below:
Most prices seen reflect actual sale results from this website.
Prices seen span a long time and may not reflect current values.  Some are selling for more, many now sell for less.
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Fauth Co. Solar Transit w/ Saegmuller Solar AttachmentFauth & Co. Solar Transit w/ George Saegmuller Solar Attachment  This is a rare and unusual solar transit.  It is an expedition size instrument with its main scope just about 7" long.    The transit is double marked with both maker & company names.  Under the glass is the name Fauth & Co. This company was formed in the 1870's between George Saegmuller and his two brothers in law, Camille Fauth and Henry Lockwood.  On the beveled plate, next to the vernier, it is marked George N. Saegmuller Wash. DC.  This is an unusual feature to be found on any transit, and was very hard to manufacture and keep in working order.

In later years Saegmuller bought out both partners, first Mr. Lockwood, and Fauth Co. Solar Transit w/ Saegmuller Solar Attachment around the turn of the century Fauth.  Shortly afterward he renamed the company George N. Saegmuller. I am not sure if this is a transition piece made right near the turn of the century after he renamed the company, or an earlier instrument made for Fauth and signed by Saegmuller when he worked as part of Fauth & Co.  

George Saegmuller is most famous for his design and patent of the solar attachment you see.  He was granted the patent for this idea in the 1870's. The one pictured came with this instrument, but is housed in its own box.  The box has some damage to the lid, but looks OK.  The optics of the solar attachment are crisp and clear. The eyepiece cap or right angle piece is missing as can be seen.  The overall condition is like new. 

The transit has an 7" scope and would be designated as a Expedition model.  The box for the transit is a study in compactness, and there is no way you could have ever fit the solar attachment in the same box.  Being an expedition size they tried to keep everything as small and compact as possible to be easier to transport in the field.   The transit is factory fitted with a mount on the top of the scope to accept the solar attachment.   Solar attachments gave the user a very exact way to determine their exact location using the sun and the horizon.  They were especially useful here in the west or in places where large deposits of  minerals or ore could affect the magnetic compass readings allowing for mistakes in the work being performed.

The mahogany box for the transit  shows just a few minor scuffs from storage. All motions are free and turn as they should. The optics are perfect and exhibit no cloudiness or other problems. The crosshairs 1 vertical, 3 horizontal, and 2 crossed in the middle are present. The compass needle works, and measures 2 1/2" long .  This is a very rare example of a desirable solar transit and one I have not seen offered for sale before.  It is an opportunity that will not likely present itself again for a long time. 

Excellent . . . . . . .$4750.00      SOLD!!

Buff Solar Transit w/ Smith Patent Solar Attachment in Original BoxBuff Solar Transit w/ Smith Patent Solar Attachment in Original Box This unusual Buff solar transit came from the Bureau of Land Management and was used in the Pacific Northwest to check lines and boundaries on government properties. From the serial #24846 we can surmise this Buff solar transit was manufactured in the 1920's - 1930's after the breakup of the Buff and Berger company back near the turn of the century. The original firm of Buff & Berger split into two companies with each principal going into business with family members of the same name, hence the names, Buff & Buff, and Berger & Sons on later instruments.

Solar transits were developed so that the user could accurately determine his location without relying on the compass in the field.  Because of magnetic deviations compasses were not an accurate means to determine ones location in many areas. The idea was to use the position of the sun and the horizon to determine ones location, much as a sextant or octant would be used to determine ones true location on a boat in open water with no visible reference points.

There are a number of different versions of solar attachments that were patented and used on surveying instruments. The Burt solar attachment which was used on Gurley Instruments, and the Saegmuller solar used on K & E instruments being the most frequently seen. Both of those types mounted on the top of the scope.  Smith Patent Solar Attachments mount on the side of the instrument and are much more unusual.

The instrument has developed a nice even patina. The transits main scope is 9" long which would make this a light mountain size transit.  It has an image erect and the optics are crisp and clear. The silvered compass works and is 4" with a tiny 2" needle.  The silvered vertical circle is 4".  All level bubbles are good, and there are 2 striding levels in the box as well.  All motions operate as they should. The serial # on the box and instrument match. Even the leather strap is original and stamped with the serial # 24846. The box is very nice and has nearly all of its original finish. The counterweight is a molded piece of lead that is fitted to the opposite side in such a way to save space and making the box smaller and easier to transport in the field.

This is a rare instrument that will display very nicely and be a highlight of any collection of surveying related instruments.

Good + . . . . . . $2450.00     SOLD!!

Knox & Shain Surveyors / Engineers TransitKnox & Shain Surveyors / Engineers Transit  The partnership of Knox and Shain was begun in the 1850's.  The Smithsonian sight says they opened their shop in 1850, while the bio on them  in Smarts says they were first listed together in the Philadelphia directories in 1855.  The serial # on the compass face is 900.  It is not known if this number reflects the date from the beginning of this partnership, or from the time Knox left the employ of Young and opened his own shop some years earlier.  This transit though has the look and fell of an instrument that dates from the 1860's to 1880's.   The Smithsonian site mentions that Knox & Shain instruments look similar to Young's transits because both partners worked for him in the past.  The information there goes on to say they bought the dividing engine of Jesse Ramsden, an early English maker of surveying and other scientific instruments.  . 

This surveyor's transit is in good condition. It stands just about 11" tall to the top of the 5" vertical circle which reads to 30 degrees. This transit is from an era when the leveling base remained with the tripod, which we do not have. There is no place for it in the box. which is OK.    The box is dirty and has been re-glued where it split at some point in the past but has a great look and a lot of character.  

The compass is a gold finish and works properly. The needle is 5" and the transit measures approx 7" across.  The silvered horizontal vernier is inside under the glass and operates as it should. All other knobs and motions are free as well.   All three level bubbles are full and appear to be original.  The optics are clear, and it focuses well, but there do not seem to be any cross hairs if there ever were any. 

This Knox & Shain is a very early transit, by a relatively rare and obscure maker from Philadelphia one of the hubs of early technology manufacturing in America.  This transit will make for a great showpiece on display in the collection or any other setting. 

Good+ . . . . . . .$650.00         SOLD!

Heller & Brightly TransitHeller & Brightly Transit    The serial # on this super condition Surveyor's transit is 4683, and from the information available from the Smithsonian's informative site on surveying instruments we can surmise that this instrument was made in the early 1870's just a few short years after this company was formed between Charles Heller and Charles Brightly. The serial # can be found in three separate places, on the inside of the box, on the lower detachable leveling base, and under the glass of the highly engraved compass face.  From the information found at the Smithsonian's site we can see that this company started their serial #'s at 4400 which would put this instrument at the very beginnings of this companies time line.   ( see below for the info from that site, and a link to it for further info ) 

The original condition of this instrument is second to none, and it is obvious that it has seen little or no use over the last 130 years.  The unusual Mahogany box is nice, noting that the leather handle has come unattached. This transit also includes a correctly marked and original tripod, and the correctly marked original plumb bob and an instruction sheet on setting the instrument up are also included. ( These are Not Pictured )  The original lacquer finish is near perfect and all motions are free and smooth. The level vials are all good.

These early transits were hand built and Heller and Brightly was a small company that produced less than 100 instruments a year in their early days.  Note the unique feature of the leveling base being detachable and fitting into a separate holding position inside the box. All in all one of the nicest and earliest American transits that I have had the pleasure of buying.  The condition is second to none, and it will be a long time before another in this condition or this early ever shows up again on the market.

Good . . . . .$1250.00        SOLD

Info from the Smithsonian Site

Heller & Brightly    Charles S. Heller (18391912) was born in Germany, and moved with his family to the United States in the late 1840s. He went to work for William J. Young in 1855, and became a partner in William J. Young & Co. in 1865. Charles H. Brightly (18171897) was born in England, arrived in the United States in the 1830s, and worked as a machinist in Philadelphia before going into partnership with Heller in 1870. Within a few years Heller & Brightly were said to have "done more than any other [firm] in this country of late years to increase competition in the trade, and to wake up the different makers to a sense of the many improvements that may be made in the instruments in common use." Heller & Brightly instruments were used in every state in the union, and in several foreign countries. The firm was incorporated in 1926, and remained in business until 1968.

Heller & Brightly was a traditional craft workshop. There were only a few employees at any one time, each could produce an entire instrument, and each was reasonably well paid. They produced some 100 instruments per year from 1870 to 1887. Annual production rose to 216 instruments in 1891, then dropped precipitously and remained at modest levels thereafter. Each instrument has a serial number, the first being #4400. Most Heller & Brightly instruments were ordered directly from the shop, with only a few sold in stores.

Ref: Robert C. Miller, "The Heller & Brightly Records," Rittenhouse 4 (1990): 4355.


Dietzgen Transit w/ Aux. Mining ScopeDietzgen Transit w/ Aux. Mining Scope Attachment & Scope w/ Setup for Dietzgen Mining Transit w/ Aux. Mining Scope Solar Attachment    This transit dates from just after the turn of the last century.  I have an auxiliary sighting scope that fits onto the outboard attachment point, but I am also in the market for the small solar attachment that the top of this transit is set up to accept.  I believe it is a similar looking telescope affair that is mounted in a U shaped yoke with a center threaded rod that would go into the fitting visible on the top.  It is a female receptacle, and a different size from the base of the other scope that is present now.

Good . . . . .$1250.00      SOLD

A. Lietz Co. Light Mountain TransitA. Lietz Co. Light Mountain Transit   I believe that this beautiful little instrument would be considered a Light Mountain Size Transit, both because of the overall size, and the bayonet or twist lock system for locking it to the tripod. But it may be their Expedition size as it is so small, and I have no catalogs to check on this. The tube measures 7.5 inches long, and the overall height is just about 10" to the top of the wheel. The optics are clear and crisp as are the 3 crosshairs.  The compass measures just 3" across and works properly.  The limb measures 4.5 inches across at this point. The serial #  6220 is written on the compass face which is black and in perfect condition. The level vials are good and appear to be original.  All of the other knobs and wheels appear to be working as well. This piece has never been polished and has a nice even patina. Those portions that were finished in black look good as well, noting some minor losses to the edges of the wheel.  At some point, a well meaning antique dealer did refinish the box. There are a series of original labels inside the lid of the box. The mounting system for the instrument to the tripod is a simple line it up and twist with no threads to be found.   I have given you a series of pics, but if you need more or have questions simply ask.

Good . . . . .$750.00       SOLD

Bausch & Lomb Light Mountain Transit    Bausch and Lomb had been in business for many years and  were well known in the optics business before they went into a business partnership with, first, George Saegmuller in 1905, and then Carl Zeiss in 1907 at which point they also began to produce Surveying instruments, transits and other engineering instruments.  They only manufactured surveying instruments up until the entry of the United States into the First World War in about 1917 when production stopped.   After the war,  production of these sorts lines was never resumed.  It seems there was better money making things for the military and that became their primary focus.

Everything on this small transit seems to be working nicely, and the optics are clear.  It has developed a nice rich even patina.  I believe this transit was made in 1908 from the chart that gives that information that I was able to find on the internet.  Given the short production span, and the limited number produced, instruments by these folks are pretty hard to come by. This includes the proper and original collapsible tripod as well.

Top Notch!!

Good . . . . .$950.00        SOLD

Sala Transit w/ Burt Style Solar Attachment Sala Transit w/ Burt Style Solar Attachment    This transit was made by one of the three famous West Coast Surveying Instrument Makers out of San Francisco During the 19th century.  These makers were William Albert Schmolz, John Roach, and Joseph Charles Sala.  Schmolz, whose working dates were from the mid 1850's until his death in 1891 was the person first responsible for patenting the idea to adapt the Burt Solar Apparatus to a transit and was granted a patent for this idea in 1867.  Gurley bought the rights to this idea, and introduced their version around 1874, agreeing to pay Schmolz $5.00 for each one they sold.  This agreement expired in 1884 when the patent became part of the public domain.  This instrument dates from some point after that, as Sala who was born in 1841 and at first apprenticed to Roach was listed first in San Francisco Directories as Roach's partner in the 1861 Directory took over the business upon Roach's death in 1891.  This instrument is #934 and was probably made just after the turn of the century.  Sala died in 1916.

This instrument is in an amazing state of preservation.  The box is dovetailed, and has a later Lietz sticker in the top of the lid   The compass face has a green finish and the points are nicely engraved.  There is a half vertical circle, and the vernier is silvered. The solar attachment is clearly marked Sala, and is basically identical with the version put out by Gurley.

Good . . . . .$4000.00       SOLD

John Zeiser St Louis TransitJohn Zeiser St Louis Transit    This transit was made by the little known and rare maker of surveying instruments who hailed from St Louis just after the turn of the 20th century. He is not listed in Smarts or at the Smithsonian site, but there is a brief mention of his name as a maker on one site on the internet. This example is a nicely done Light Mountain size with a 9 1/2 inch scope and half circle vernier. The optics are clear and it has a simple cross for the crosshairs. All motions turn freely and the vials are full. The compass is functional as well. It has developed a very nice patina and will display nicely. The serial # is 550. The box seems correct, but the plate it rests on is plywood and may be a replacement. All in all a nice looking instrument by an obscure and relatively rare maker.

Good . . . . .$750.00       SOLD

Heller & Brightly Transit w/ Aux. Mining Scope AttachmentHeller & Brightly Transit w/ Aux. Mining Scope Attachment    Transits set up to take an Auxiliary Scopes for either mining related work or other precise applications are a unusual configuration. This style of surveying instrument that was basically used in only one or two specific applications.  They were not widely distributed and thus quite hard to find.  With this example, the transit was made by Heller and Brightly of Phila. PA., and the scope is unmarked, but I have been told is a Lietz who were an established West Coast supplier, distributor, and manufacturer of quality optical equipment and surveying supplies.  It is a nice looking instrument.

Good . . . . .$1450.00        SOLD

B. L. Makepeace Loxo Combination Transit / LevelBB. L. Makepeace Loxo Combination Transit / Level   This small combination Transit / Level was patented in 1912 and offered for sale after that. The Makepeace company is still in business and has an long and interesting history that began in the 1890's.  The company began in the blueprint and paper end of the business, expanded to offer a line of K & E products, and then just after the turn of the century Mr. Makepeace began offering his own line and design of surveying instruments including this style instrument.

This combination level transit has seen little use and is in excellent condition. The box is very nice, and the label inside the lid is very good as well. The optics are clear, and the crosshairs present. The level vial is full and all motions turn freely. The bronzed lacquer finish is near flawless. There is no tripod. This instrument will make a nice addition to the collection to round out all the types and styles of instruments that were made and offered or would make for a good user around the property or building site. It will display very nicely.

Good . . . . .$350.00       SOLD

Negretti & Zambia Transit / TheodoliteNegretti & Zambra Transit  / Theodolite Negretti & Zambra was an English outfit whose origins dates back into the mid 19th century.    This transit / theodolite has an interesting form with its half circle beneath the scope.

The leather covered mahogany box looks really nice. The box still has nearly all of its original finish. This instrument was dropped or handled badly at one point, as I had to re-glue nearly all of the different pieces inside, and repair a crack in the top where the base was trying to break through as it was banged around. It looks great now.  The theodolite breaks down, and the different parts are fitted throughout the box as can be seen in the last photos.  There is a bit of damage to two pieces from when it was shipped.  The small aux magnifier lens, for the vernier,  is cracked. Also a piece of the spring loaded fine adjust beneath the plate broke off at its attachment point when this was banging around in the box.  The rest is fine,  looks great and will display well..  

The crosshairs are present, and the image is inverted.  There is a stamp on the side of the scope indicating that this was made for a firm in Lima Peru.  The serial number is in the 2000 range, but I could find no info that would allow for dating it. It has a 3 point leveling system, and it has the tripod mounting plate which is set up to fit in the box and has a quick release feature.  an interesting design that will look fine as part of the display. 

Good+ . . . . . .$650.00      SOLD!

Hildebrand Freiberg Surveyors / Engineers Theodolite / TransitHildebrand Freiberg Surveyors / Engineers Theodolite / Transit This precision Theodolite is by Hildebrand Freiberg a well know and respected optical instrument maker that was begun in the 18th century in Germany as Freiberg and evolved and changed names over a period of time to what it is now. You can visit their present website here.

The name Hildebrand became associated with the company in 1872 and Hildebrand Freiberg company was in operation until the Russians took control of the plant at the end of WWII. The only place this precision instrument is marked Hildebrand Freiberg Surveyors / Engineers Theodolite / Transitwith the company name is on the handle of the case. There is also a stylized logo & number on the instrument itself which probably would help date it for those with access to that info.

This instrument dates from somewhere near the turn of the century up to the time of WWII when the Russians took over the plant. It is interesting to note the Japanese writing on the outside of the case and the "military" colored tan finish of the tripod would lead one to believe it was sold to and used by the Japanese military prior to or during WWII. The instrument itself is in great condition and is as complete as one could imagine or hope for. All of the level bubbles are good. All of the fitted holes in the internal carry case / tray are full and this instrument was designed to be locked into the case on the base to withstand all sorts of travel bumps and abuse. All of the tiny magnifiers over the vernier scales are present.

There is a striding level, an auxiliary compass, plumb bob, counterweight, and even a small wind up tape in feet / metric with Japanese writing. The tripod is nice, proper, and the instrument has the proper 3 point leveling base for it. There are also additional parts and pieces stored on the door, like an extra eyepiece, sunshade, and right angle eyepiece. The optics are clear and the cross hairs present. It is a very nice looking and graphic instrument to add to several different focus collections.

Good+ . . . . . .$750.00      SOLD!

Buff & Berger Bevel Limb TransitBuff & Berger Bevel Limb Transit   This is a rare transit that made the back page of the 1897 Buff & Berger catalog.  It is one of the few American instruments produced with a beveled vernier at the edge of the plate.  The write up in the catalog explains why the idea did not last long.  it was hard and expensive to produce, and was very fragile.  One of but a handful known. 

Fine. . . . .   SOLD

Dietzgen Light Mountain Size Engineering Transit   This small Transit is in good condition. The scope is 9" long and the vertical circle is 5" Dia. Dietzgen in all of their catalogs I have refer to all of their transits as being Engineering transits and offered them in 3 or 4 different sizes. This looks to be a #6024, and the serial # is 22930 dating it from 1936 or so.

This is a nice compact instrument that from the finish on the box was once part of the military or forest service. The finish is nice except for the one are on the tube where someone removed the property of sticker that was once there. The optics are crisp, and the cross hairs are a matrix like setup with several intersections of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. It will display nicely, or after a calibration make a good user.

Good . . . . .$450.00        SOLD

Bostrom #4 Transit / Level   This small combination Transit / Level is in good condition. It is a precision but simple instrument that was offered for general layouts and lines by large concerns like Sears, Montgomery Wards or other outfits that sold surveying instruments for general use.  This style of surveying instrument are sometimes referred to as Farm levels   This one is unmarked as to maker but is a Bostrom.   I would estimate it dates from the 40's or so. As can be seen half of the box is present.  There is no tripod. It will make for a good general user, or a nice display piece on the shelf.

Good . . . . .$95.00        SOLD

Fennel Kassel TransitFennel / Kassel Builders Transit / Level   This is a quality transit / level made by the well known German firm Fennel / Kassel. The box is marked West Germany which would date this as post WWII. It looks a lot like the David White Builders transit I use to use for general layout, corners, and grades. This instrument is set up much the same with a positive lock for the level / grade function, and just one level vial below the scope to set up. Everything about the transit is nice, and I believe it is ready to go back to work. The box needs a new clap / latch, but is otherwise OK. It takes a standard 3 1/2 x 8 tripod.

Good . . . . .$150.00       SOLD

A. Lietz / San Francisco CA Light Mountain Size TransitA. Lietz / San Francisco CA Light Mountain Size Transit    This small Transit is in good condition. It dates from the 30's or so.  The box is nice, and the tripod is included.   

Good . . . . .$450.00      SOLD

Craftsman Transit / Level    This small combination Transit / Level is in good condition. It is a simple style of instrument that was offered for general layouts and lines by large concerns like Sears, Montgomery Wards or other outfits that sold surveying instruments for general use. It has a sticker identifying it as being sold by Sears. I would estimate it dates from the 40's or so. It will make for a good general user, or a nice display piece on the shelf.

Good . . . . .$95.00      SOLD


This is just a sample of the many antiques & collectibles we have sold.
Click link to see other Sales Archive Pages on this Site.

We can help you sell quality Antiques  Contact Us.

For further info on consigning / selling your antiques with us please see our FAQ page, the Appraisal / Selling Page and the Selling Your Collection Pages.

Our current offering of Antiques for sale are at our sister Website

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Larry & Carole Meeker