Samual Thaxter Survey Compass Antique 19th Century Surveying Compass Larry & Carole Meeker
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Antique & Collectible Surveying Instruments

Survey Compasses, Solar Compasses, Railroad Compasses, Etc.

We Buy Surveying & Scientific Related Antiques!!

I buy, sell, and deal in many different types of antique surveying instruments and related science and technology antiques.  In c.1836 Robert Shaw Surveying Compassaddition to this informational website we operate the website as a sales venue where we conduct our sales of antique surveying instruments 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 and visit the surveying related sale pages you will find there. Wm. J. Young Solar Compass

If you have an antique surveyor's instruments and equipment to sell, please contact us at with as many details as possible, including one overall pic and we can discuss it.

Surveying Compasses

We buy & sell many different types ofGurley Telescopic Survey Compass 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 compasses like the Gurley compass to the left are a good example.  We are especially interested in acquiring more complex antique surveying instruments such as solar compasses and transits or those surveying instruments fitted with auxiliary scopes like the Gurley compass shown on the left. 

The first surveying instruments used to explore, survey, and divide up the American landscape came with the early settlers and explorers from England and 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 aAntique Surveying Compass new industry began to develop here in America.  These same areas along the Eastern Seaboard became the centers of manufacturing activity in early America and expectedly the locations or home base of the earliest American surveying instrument and other tool makers.

These earliest makers included makers Anthony Lamb and Thomas Briggs of New York, Aaron 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 surveying instruments and compasses for George Washington when he was a surveyor prior to the American Revolution. (Rittenhouse compass pic above)

Early wooden or brass surveying compasses by 18th century Colonial era makers are becoming very difficult to Colonial Compassfind. 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.  Ready availability and ease of construction being the main reasons.  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.  Antique Surveying Compqass

These earliest wooden American compasses had paper labels known as compass cards under the glass. The compass bearings and added graphics were engraved on a plate used to make the paper cards.  It has 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 plates were works of art depicting scenes with animals or landscapes or even people at work.  All examples are very desirable.  

Early brass compasses dating from the late 18th and early 19th century 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. Engraving on later compasses became simpler with just the points called off and a few engraved points or arrows leading to them on the face.

Colton Surveying CompassThe 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 makers from other areas began to grow with instrument makers setting up shops in places like Western PA, different parts of Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, St Louis and elsewhere. 

St. Louis became a center of activity with its strategic local and jumping off point on the Mississippi River forgurley surveyors compass 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 took over the Roach business after 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 famous east coast makers Chandlee and Rittenhouse seem to fare best near where they were made.  

Stanley # 65 Low Angle Block PlaneThe 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: makerdirectory.htm There are also a lot of compasses and other early surveying instruments pictured and described at the Smithsonian's site.  The collection there is searchable both by masker and type.

 The surveying instruments you see here are examples of the caliber, condition and quality of theseJohn Roach Vernier Mining Compass w/ Clinometer Sighting Feature antiques that we primarily deal in, want to buy, or 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 that you want to sell,  please contact us at 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 and visit the surveying related sale pages you will find there. Gurley Solar Compass w/ Auxiliary Scope & Original Box

W. & L. E. Gurley Vernier Compass w/ Auxiliary ScopeThank you!!
Larry & Carole

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Larry & Carole Meeker