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Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Dry Card Boat Compass

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HISTORICALLY SIGNIFICANT BRITISH ANTIQUE COMPASS

Presented is a historic boat compass with a domed roof, and 4 inch dry card making this binnacle a very rare one in deed since the use of dry card compasses went out of favor around the time of the World War One. We first thought the was a Wilfrid O. White compass made under license from Britain's Lord Kelvin. We originally said, "it likely was made under a design of England's Lord Kelvin who held numerous marine patents in the U.S. Kelvin was associated with Wilfrid O. White of Boston who held an exclusive license for Kelvin's products in the United States for many years." However, our further research now makes us conclude this is in fact an early compass made by Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird prior to the start of WW I. The compelling evidence is the twin needle Mica compass card which is definitely of Kelvin's 1870 design, and the fact that this country's White didn't start making compasses until 1920 under their own Wifrid O. White name, and much later, in 1961 under the Danforth-White name.  
 
The compass has a dry paper card mounted over a Mica disk. The card, which is marked Danforth-White, is not the original since the edge of the paper does not match the edge of the Mica as it should, and Danforth-White didn't exist until 1961.  When the compass needed service in this country around 1961, the logical place to send it would have been to Danforth-White since it was then fresh in everyone's mind that The U.S. White's were Kelvin's U.S. licensee. There they decided to place a new paper rose on the old Kelvin mica disk, but the only one they had said Danforth-White, not Kelvin-White (James White of England) or Wilfrid O. White.
 

Here's why.

In 1918 Wilfred O. White went into the navigation instruments business manufacturing compasses, binnacles and wind and weather instruments, but he had teamed up with Lord Kelvin some years before. Years later, in 1961, the White Company was sold to a company, The Eastern Co., which had previously acquired Bill Danforth's operation known for its famous anchor. White's manufacturing was moved to Portland, ME where the Danforth Marine Hardware company was located. It then became known as the Danforth-White Division of the Eastern Company. (Later these operations were sold to Rule Manufacturing which in turn became part of ITT Industries)
 
HISTORY OF KELVIN, BOTTOMLEY & BAIRD: The origins of the company lie in the highly successful partnership, between William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, (1824-1907), Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow University from 1846-1899 and James White, a Glasgow optical maker. James White (1824-1884) founded the firm of James White, optical instrument maker in Glasgow in 1850 and was involved in supplying apparatus for Thomson's laboratory and working with him on experiments. By 1854, White was already producing electrical instruments - electrometers and electrical balances - from Thomson's designs. 

In 1870, White was largely responsible for equipping Thomson's laboratory in the new University premises at Gilmorehill. From 1876, he was producing accurate compasses for metal ships to Thomson's design, and this became an important part of his business in the last years of his life. He was also involved in the production of sophisticated sounding machinery that Thomson had designed to address problems encountered in laying cables at sea, helping to make possible the first transatlantic cable connection. At the same time, he continued to make a whole range of more conventional instruments such as telescopes, microscopes and surveying equipment. White's association with Thomson continued until he died, but without any legal deeds of co-partnery - White bearing, at least in a public sense, the financial risks of their working partnership.

After his death, his business continued under the same name. Thomson, who became Sir William Thomson and then Baron Kelvin of Largs in 1892, continued to maintain his interest in the business after White's death. In 1884 he raised most of the capital needed to construct and equip new workshops in Cambridge Street, Glasgow. At the Cambridge Street premises, the company continued to make the compass Thomson had designed during the 1870s and to supply it in some quantity, especially to the Admiralty. At the same time, the firm became increasingly involved in the design, production and sale of electrical apparatus.

In 1899, Lord Kelvin resigned from his University chair and became, in 1900, a director in the newly formed limited liability company, Kelvin & James White Ltd which acquired the business of James White. At the same time, Kelvin's nephew, James Thomson Bottomley (1845-1926), joined the firm which by c1915 had become known as Kelvin, White & Hutton Ltd. Kelvin & James White Ltd underwent a further change of name in 1913, becoming Kelvin Bottomley & Baird Ltd. Years later the operation was merged with Henry Hughes & Son of London, England with the surviving company known as Kelvin-Hughes, Ltd.

 
Conclusion: This compass represents a significant bit of U.S. and British Maritime history, and should appeal to the most serious of collectors who pride themselves in owning only the very special.
 
OUR GUARANTEE OF SATISFACTION: If not completely satisfied with your purchase it may be returned, if without damage, within five days of receipt in its original packaging. Return items must be insured for their full value. A prior email authorization by us for the return is required. Unfortunately, no refund can be made for the cost of shipping, packaging and handling  unless we are at fault.
 
SIZE: 10 1/2" H x 6" W x 6 1/2 " D  Add 2 3/4" for the bail    WEIGHT       5 1/4 lbs
 
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