Samual Thaxter Survey Compass
      Larry & Carole
Meeker

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Internet
Antique Dealers & Brokers

Purveyors and Dealers of Americana  /  Patented & Mechanical Antiques







Antique & Collectible Surveying Instruments

Transits, Theodilites, Solar Instruments, Levels, Compasses, Alidades, Chains, Plumb Bobs, Etc.

We can help you sell your Surveying & Scientific Related Antiques!!

I buy, sell, and deal in antique surveying instruments and related science and technology antiques.  In c.1836 Robert Shaw Surveying Compassaddition to this informational website we operate the website www.Patented-Antiques.com as a sales venue where we conduct our antique surveying instrument sales and other antique sales.  Our website is one of the largest single owner antique sales websites on the internet dealing in surveying related antiques and other tool and technology related antiques.

To see examples of antique surveying instruments and related equipment that I currently have for sale, please go to our sister site at www.Patented-Antiques.com and visit the surveying related sale pages you will find there.

If you are in the market to buy vintage and antique surveying instruments please visit that page. If you have surveying instruments or other related tool & technology related antiques you would like to sell please visit that page to see how we conduct our consignment sales. If you would like to consign your antique surveying related pieces with us and have additional questions please see the FAQ page and other informational pages at either site.

If you have an antique surveyor's instruments and equipment to sell, please contact us at LCM@AntiqBuyer.com and we can discuss it.

Surveying Compasses

As dealers & sellers of American antique surveyor's instruments and vintage tools we buy & sell many different types of antique surveying instruments and related vintage accessories that an early explorer, surveyor, architect, engineer, or builder would have used in his trade.

Antique surveyor's compassesGurley Telescopic Survey Compass like the Gurley compass to the right are a good example.  We are especially interested in acquiring more complex antique surveying instruments such as solar compasses or those fitted with auxiliary scopes like the Gurley compass shown on the right. 

The first surveying instruments used to explore, survey, and divide up America came with the early settlers and explorers from England and the other original homelands of those early explorers and adventurers.  During the earliest Colonial times most of the available surveying instruments in America were manufactured in England and were distributed  in America from the largest cities located along the Eastern seaboard or cities that had access to large bodies of water or seaways such as New York, Boston, St Louis and Philadelphia.

It was not long before the demand for surveying and related instruments outstripped the limited supply of imported instruments and a new industry began to develop here in America.  These same areas along the Eastern Seaboard also became the centers of manufacturing activity in early America and expectedly the locations or home base of the earliest American surveying instrument makers.

These earliest makers included makers Anthony Lamb and Thomas Briggs of New York, Antique Surveying CompassAaron Breed of Boston and others.  Early makers of surveying and other mathematical instruments from the Philadelphia area included Benjamin Condy and James Ham, as well as the more recognizable names David Rittenhouse and his brother Benjamin Rittenhouse.   It is documented that David Rittenhouse made George Washington's surveying instruments and compasses for him when he was a surveyor prior to the American Revolution.  (Rittenhouse compass pic above)

Early wooden or brass surveying compasses by Colonial era makers are becoming very difficult to Colonial Compassfind. Some examples have been known to sell in the 5 figure range although prices have fluctuated downward in the current market.  Many surveying instruments, from compasses and transits to levels and the rest have fallen in value from their peaks by a much as 50% in recent years.

The earliest American makers and pioneers in the development of surveying instruments were "Yankee's" in the truest sense of the word.  In the Northeast, wood was utilized as bodies for instruments for several reasons, availability and ease of construction being the main ones.  Even though brass is relatively easy to work, non magnetic, and adaptable to the form needed, wood was an even easier material to work with and in ready and plentiful supply.  The vast majority of the early compass makers that utilized wood as the basic material for the bodies of their compasses originated from the New England area.  Many of these first American made surveying instruments are seeming crude and rudimentary, but have a sense and presence that once appreciated and understood  make them very appealing.  True Americana at its finest.  Those early makers made do with the materials at hand. There are some good examples of such surveying compasses pictured and discussed at the Smithsonian's on line website dealing with this subject. 

These earliest wooden American compasses had paper labels under the glass known as compass cards.   The compass bearings and added graphics were engraved on a plate used to make the paper cards.  It has even been purported that Paul Revere provided one Boston maker with an engraving plate that he purportedly used to make his compass cards with.  Some of these were works of art depicting scenes with animals or landscapes or even people at work.  All are very desirable.  Antique Surveying Compqass

Later Compasses from areas like New York and Philadelphia were typically made of brass and their compass faces can be highly decorated or engraved with intricate and beautiful geometric designs like the example to the right.   Later mass produced examples became simpler with just the points called off and a few engraved points or arrows leading to them on the face.

The list of individual makers of all forms of surveying instruments continued to grow along with America throughout the 19th century.  The major makers continued to be concentrated in or near the major cities and hubs of activity, but the list of maker from Colton Surveying Compass other areas began to grow with instrument makers setting up shops in places like Western PA, different parts of Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and elsewhere. 

St. Louis also became a center of activity with its strategic local and jumping off point on the Mississippi River for the trek west.  As activity moved West, so did makers of surveying instruments.  The first and best known California makers of surveying instruments were Schmolz of San Francisco, followed by John Roach who moved there from New York after a partnership with Warner in the mid 1800's, and finally Joseph Sala who took over the Roach business gurley surveyors compassafter his death.  Instruments by all three of these west coast makers are becoming hard to find and some can command very strong prices in the right venue.  Just as instruments by the makers Chandlee and Rittenhouse seem to fare best near where they were made.  

The list and examples of known compass makers number in the many hundreds, and there is a comprehensive although not complete list of known makers and examples of their instruments documented and pictured at the Virtual Museum of Surveying compass makers directory which can be found here: http://www.surveyhistory.org/compass maker directory.htm There are also a lot of compasses and other early surveying instruments pictured and described at the Smithsonian's site. 


The surveying instruments you see here are examples of the caliber, condition and quality of these antiques that we primarily deal in and can help you sell. 

Click this link if you would like to see past sales results for antique surveying compasses, or this link to see Gurley Compasses.  Past Sales Results for other Antiques we have sold are linked on the right.

If you have quality antique surveying instruments similar to those that you see on this page that you want to sell,  please contact us at LCM@AntiqBuyer.com providing me with as many details as possible.

To see examples of antique surveying instruments and related equipment that I currently have for sale, please go to our sister site at www.Patented-Antiques.com and visit the surveying related sale pages you will find there.

Thank you!!
Larry & Carole





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Larry & Carole Meeker