E.S. RITCHIE CASED SHIP COMPASS, CIRCA 1930’S

$350.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 853-70

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To Order:
Call 717-334-0347,
Fax 717-334-5016, or E-mail

Wooden box meas. approx. 8.00 x 8.00 x 5.00 inches with a brass mounted compass inside. Box is nailed together and has no lid. Box has no markings and shows only minor wear.

Inside the box is a circular nautical compass on a brass gimbal type support that allows the compass to move around within the box. The compass meas. approx. 6.00 inches across the glass face. The dial is housed in a half sphere painted white on the inside. Around the glass on the face is a thick brass bezel ring that is marked in several places. The markings read “E. S. RITCHIE & SONS / 1861” “66036” “BOSTON / MASS.” and “U. S. NAVY / USS NORWICH.”

Ritchie began making marine bearing compasses for the U.S. Navy before the Civil War. At the time, British Admiralty dry-mount nautical compasses were considered by all navies and merchant shipping companies as the technological standard of the day. Ritchie thought they could be improved upon, and by 1860 had received a U.S. patent for the first successful and practicable liquid-filled marine compass suitable for general use, a development that has been described as the first major advance in compass technology in several hundred years. With the damping provided by the liquid, together with a gimbal mounting, the floating indicator or card of the Ritchie compass remained relatively stable even when a ship’s deck pitched and rolled during periods of severe weather. Ritchie liquid-filled nautical compasses soon became a U.S. Navy standard, and were also widely used by American merchant mariners. The business he began in 1850 became E. S. Ritchie & Son in 1866 and E. S. Ritchie & Sons in 1867, and moved from Boston to Brookline in 1886. Following Ritchie’s death in 1895, his sons transferred the scientific instruments to the L. E. Knott Apparatus Co., while retaining the nautical instrument line, which was renamed E.S. Ritchie & Sons.

The overall condition of the item is very good. Compass dial moves freely and all the demarcations on the face of the dial are clear and readable. The central hub of the dial has some bubbled paint and two areas of paint loss. Glass face needs cleaning. Brass has nice overall untouched patina. All is original to the piece.

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