Nautical Antiques & Marine Art at Land and Sea Collection™ Dive Helmets, Ship Models, Sextants

Sir William Thomson - Lord Kelvin - Patent Application & Model Compass Card 1889

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This Fine Relic Has Been Sold to Norway. Thank you!
 
SIR WILLIAM THOMSON THREADED COMPASS PATENT APPLICATION & COMPASS CARD ~1889
Guaranteed “ Extra Fine” 

 
Complete with original Patent Application and Grant. No. 4923 A.D. 1889. An important relic of maritime history with a collaboration between two well known historic men,
Sir William Thomson and James White
 
 

PRESENTED IS A VERY IMPORTANT ENGLISH DRY CARD COMPASS made by James White, Glasgow for submission to the British Patent Office in March, 1889 in behalf of Sir William Thomson. It comes complete with the Thomson's patent application, specifications, and drawings based on the 1876 design of a light weight dry compass card invented by Sir William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin of Largs. This type compass card was still manufactured by the surviving company “Kelvin-Hughes“ even after it had been acquired by Smith Industries. This was in 1955, almost 50 years after Thomson's death. 
 
The card is housed in a period correct butternut wood box with tongue and groove construction and a luxurious golden patina. On the left,  is a covered compartment that holds a compass needle and two pivots made from aluminum which was a very expensive material in those days. On the bottom of the box's lid is the original label:
 
By appointment to the University
JAMES WHITE
OPTICIAN
Mathematical & Philosophical 
Instrument maker

 James White's Label. Note the compass needle and two pivots, lower left


Except for the model at the Smithsonian Museum, and the National Museum of Scotland, it is the only compass card of this type that we have ever seen that was made to the Thomson design that was submitted as part of a patent application, and marks the collaboration of James White & Lord Kelvin. The original dates back to 1850. For an exact match see the National Museum of Scotland, http://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-099-953-C

For the Smithsonian model click http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthemove/collection/object_1389.html

            The revised Wm Thompson threaded compass card of 1889


THE CARD: The card is made from beautifully engraved paper engraved with an elaborate Fleur des Lis at the North point with the number 11266.  The paper is cut, approximately every 20 degrees to allow for it to be suspended from the center pivot point by silk thread which are attached to six magnetized needles on each side.
 
The compass rose shows the eight cardinal points and is further divided to 1/16 points and then to 32. On the outer perimeter are degrees that are graduated fro 0 to 90 degrees for each quadrant. It measures 7 15/16 inches in diameter and has a finely made aluminum center cap which was a very expensive metal at that time.
 
The original patent application of 1876, was designed to reduce drag and make the compass less sensitive to the pitching, rolling and course variations of a ship.  In this newly patented version of 1879, the design was modified to reduce vibration from engines and that which occurs due to cannon fire. As a result, the British Royal Navy bought many of the new compass cards.

                The patent drawing submitted with the 1889 application

 
CONDITION: The compass card, and wood case are in exceptionally condition, and only show their age though the wood's rich patina and the normal aging of the paper card. The compass operates accurately.
 
DIMENSIONS:
CASE 9" square by 1" high       Weight complete 2 Lbs
CARD 7 1/15" diameter
                  Exterior of card's case
                  The card in use

This important compass should appeal to a collector seeking only the most unusual and best for a world class collection.

BRIEF HISTORY OF INVENTOR: William Thomson (1824-1907), Lord Kelvin of Largs 

William Thomson was a mathematical physicist, engineer in the physical sciences of the 19th century. He did work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He is widely known for developing the Kelvin scale of absolute temperature measurement. In 1892, the title Baron Kelvin was given in honour of his achievements, and named after the River Kelvin, which flowed past his university in Glasgow, Scotland.

He also enjoyed a second career as a telegraph engineer and inventor, a career that propelled him into the public eye and ensured his wealth, and, fame and is widely known in the marine industry for his work on the magnetic compass.

The photo at left is after Baron William Thomson was elevated to Lord Kelvin of Largs

MARINE ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Thomson was an enthusiastic yachtsman, his interest in all things relating to the sea.

Thomson introduced a method of deep-sea sounding, in which a steel piano wire replaces the ordinary land line. The wire glides so easily to the bottom that "flying soundings" can be taken while the ship is going at full speed. A pressure gauge to register the depth of the sinker was added by Thomson.

About the same time he revived the Sumner method of finding a ship's place at sea, and calculated a set of tables for its ready application. He also developed a tide predicting machine.

During the late 1870's, Thomson worked to perfect the adjustable compass in order to correct errors arising from magnetic deviation owing to the increasing use of iron in naval architecture. Thomson's design was a great improvement on the older instruments, being steadier and less hampered by friction, the deviation due to the ship's own magnetism being corrected by movable masses of iron at the binnacle. Thomson's innovations involved much detailed work to develop principles already identified by George Biddell Airy and others but contributed little in terms of novel physical thinking. His energetic lobbying and networking proved effective in gaining acceptance of his instrument by The Admiralty.

The origins of this compass lie in the highly successful, but informal, relationship between William Thomson (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 his name, in Glasgow in 1850. White was involved in supplying and repairing apparatus for Thomson's university laboratory and working with him on experimental models. Thompson had a long association with James White.

From 1876, White was producing compasses for metal ships to Thomson's design. White was also involved in the production of Thomson's other designs for laying cables at sea. White's association with Thomson continued until he died, and their company continued as Kelvin-White.
 
In 1884 Kelvin 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 company, Kelvin & James White Ltd which incorporated the business of James White. At the same time, Kelvin's nephew, James Thomson Bottomley (1845-1926), joined the firm.
 
Kelvin & James White Ltd underwent a further change of name in 1913, becoming Kelvin Bottomley & Baird Ltd. Following the formal amalgamation of In 1947, Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Ltd and Henry Hughes & Sons Ltd combined to form Kelvin & Hughes Ltd., and in 1964 became a part of Smith's Industries Ltd.

Some marine historians portray Thomson as a man of undoubted talent and enthusiasm, with some genuine knowledge of the sea, who managed to parlay a handful of modest ideas in compass design into a commercial monopoly for his own manufacturing concern, using his exulted personal reputation to repel even small claims of originality from others, and persuading the Admiralty and the law to overlook both the deficiencies of his own design and the virtues of his competitors. Edited and corrected from Wkiipedia and other sources.

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