is an early, E.S. Ritchie, Boston, Dory binnacle bearing a well used brass housing. It has a very
early compass design with a single cylindrical cross bar that reminds us of a banana, marked Ritchie Boston by hand.
Hence, we have coined the term, “Banana Compass Card”. Inside, the dry card compass shows as near new. The
case indicates many days use at sea, but the dry card compass is in excellent condition. Even though the bezel inside is un-numbered,
we know this wonderful old relic is of a very early design because eight years ago we had a banana style compass with a serial
number that dated to 1863. This was only two years after E.S. Richie started to make compasses. Since then, we have only seen
a couple more.
brass hood has a large round 3+ inch viewing port in front that is flanked by a kerosene burner on
the viewer’s right. The housing has numerous small dents and abrasions all over. Some time ago it was
polished and lacquered. The coating remains in good condition.
The appearance is
very striking compared to other small boat binnacles. These are mostly seen in the form of WW II, lifeboat
binnacles which have survived till today. The original burner is present, but has not been tested.
Dory size compass with cylindrical single cross bar
COMPASS: The fully gimbaled antique compass is of one of Ritchie’s earliest designs. It measures 3 1/2″ outside diameter
and is fitted with a 3″ card. The card has a curved outer ring which is hung at the center point. This
type mounting is in the form of a banana beam that is unique to this rare design. There
is some minor sediment at the bottom of the bowl.
subdivisions are in Cardinal Points, N.S,E,W, and quarter points, NE,SE,SW,NW, and then 1/2 points. There are 64
points on the compass card, each being 5 5/8 degrees.
side door show the kerosene burner reservoir. There is a sealed glass port behind it
Binnacle housing 7 1/4″ W x 6 1/2″ D x 8 1/4″ H
Weight 6 Lbs. 9 oz.
3 1/2″ diameter
The back has a large elbow for mounting the binnacle on a exterior bulkhead
Side view of Ritchie Dory binnacle with banana style 3 inch compass
In 1850 physicist Edward
S. Ritchie began developing the first U.S. manufactured marine compass. He had received a contract to repair foreign-made
compasses from the Boston Naval Shipyard, and he soon realized most of the problems he encountered could be eliminated. So
when the US Naval Observatory put out a call for American Manufactured navigational instruments in 1861 it was no surprise
who they contacted first.
completed and sent samples of his work (including the first ever liquid filled compass) in June of 1861 and by August he received
an order from the US Navy for 26 compasses, 10 of which were liquid filled. At this time Ritchie began selling compasses under
the name E.S. Ritchie & Co., which was later changed to E.S. Ritchie & Sons in 1867. To this day E.S. Ritchie &
Sons continues to produce marine navigation instruments.
banana style Ritchie compass we sold had a six inch card and was Stamped
on the outer bezel with its Serial Number 6449 and three patent dates, Apr 7, 1863, Sept 9, 1863 and July 19, 1870.
of Ritchie’s first liquid filled compass is on display today in the Museum of Science in London, England; the only foreign
product so honored.
1951 the company was purchased by Marine Compass Company. Louis A. Sherman founded the Marine Compass Company in 1910 and
concentrated on producing smaller instruments for commercial and fishing vessels as well as the emerging yachting markets.
The two companies consolidated all operations under the name E.S. Ritchie and Sons and is still owned and managed by the Sherman