Circa 1800


Signed "G. King Boston" on the compass card. Compass card also with decorated north and east points and set within a weighted brass bowl with an agate pivot. Housed within the original hand-dovetailed pine box with original green paint and gimbal frame. Inscribed in pencil on interior of box "Oliva Shedd Ronnberg", perhaps referring to the succession of vessels on which the compass was used.
Compass diameter 3.5". Box height 3.75". Width 7". Depth 6".
Condition: The compass and card are in good condition. One of the gimbal pins is off (but with the compass) and needs to be re-soldered. One of the gimbal ring pins is loose and needs to be glued in place.

The absence of a condition report does not imply an object is free of defects. All items may have normal signs of age and wear commensurate with their age; these issues will likely not be mentioned in the condition report. Please contact Eldred's before the auction with any condition questions. Questions about condition will not be answered after purchase. Condition reports are provided as a courtesy, and we are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Important note on frames: Frames are not guaranteed to be in the same condition as they are in the item photograph. Due to handling and shipping, many frames, especially antique ones, are prone to losses. If you have questions about the condition of a frame, please contact us prior to the auction. 

  • Provenance:
    West Sea Company, Old Town San Diego, 2001.
    The Kelton Collection of Marine Art & Artifacts.

    Dating from the Federal period, this is a significant American boxed dry card ship's compass with an early decorated "East Point". In the early days of map making, Jerusalem was placed in the center of the map because it was considered the most holy city in Christendom. Subsequently, in addition to the north point on the compass rose, many early compasses had the east point embellished in recognition of the fact that Jerusalem lay to the east of most of the Western commercial centers. In this early American compass, the card evokes this tradition, with embellishments around the north and east points.

    Gedney King (about 1777-1839) was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He was apprenticed to his uncle, Benjamin King, the famous colonial instrument maker from Rhode Island. Around 1800, the younger King set up his own instrument-making firm on Fore Street in Boston then moved to Fish Street in 1805. Two of King's instruments, dated 1800 and 1802, are in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

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March 1, 2023 9:30 AM EST
East Dennis, MA, US


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