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A Finely Engraved, American Surveying Compass

Compass. PATTEN, Richard [New York, 19th C.]
[Engraved on dial:] R PATTEN NEW YORK. 13 ¾
5 ½-diameter, silvered dial in brass housing with elaborately engraved compass rose; 13 ¾ inches, length. Complete & intact with all original parts, in original, hand-carved, customized, wooden platform, removable sighting vanes, screw underneath for stabilizing needle; expected discoloration to brass, still overall excellent condition.


A fine, American, brass surveying compass with an elegantly engraved compass rose on its silvered dial, with its original hand-carved, wooden platform. Richard Patten (1792-1865) began his career manufacturing mathematical instruments in 1813 in New York, where he advertised himself as the “only Manufacturer of Sextants & Quadrants in New York.” We earlier had a compass by Patten that was known to have been used in the surveying of Westport, Connecticut around the time of its incorporation in 1835. He also worked in Washington and Baltimore and was active in the production of nautical charts and guides. He ranks among the most prominent producers and importers of a wide variety of instruments in America in the first half of the 19th century. His works are known for their elegant engraving. A compass similar to this one has been dated from 1820 to 1833 (R. G. Gerry, “Richard Patten: Mathematical Instrument Make,” The Magazine Antiques, July 1959, pp. 56-58).

Bedini, S. Thinkers and Tinkers, pp. 368-69.

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