ANTIQUE SKYLIGHT BINNACLE
NEW NICKLE PLATING
by John E. Hand & Son
Presented is a large size skylight binnacle that follows a 100 year old design. It was made by the famous
John E. Hand & Sons Company of Philadelphia. This one likely dates from the 1950’s. It has six glass panels, with
a Hand 6 inch gimbaled compass stamped on the compass bezel with Serial Number 6209. Because of their high cost of manufacture,
binnacles like this were only found on the most expensive yachts and therefore, only infrequently come on the market.
one is is about 3 inches taller than the one PERKO used to make and is the same height, but 1/2 inches wider than today’s
E.S. Ritchie recreations that may be purchased new.
S SANTANA: Binnacles such as these became very popular starting in the 1920’s. Their popularity may
have increased after one was seen aboard the motor vessel “Santana” in the movie “Key Largo”
(1948) staring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Bogie also had one in the cockpit of his famous yawl Santana. Here it is shown
covered with a chrome hood. Our ketch Bagheera was fitted with one and served us well during seven years of ocean cruising.
discontinued making them about 1954, and Danforth in 2010. Today, the only source of skylight binnacles is
from E.S. Ritchie. Their’s are priced on the street at $2195.00, but arguably use thinner metal stampings, but
have the advantage of a more advanced compass.
CONDITION: All the metal work has been re-plated and may be considered new. The over plating
makes the maker’s name tag unreadable. All the glass was replaced. The compass is original and the fluid has been
drained for shipping. The compass card is not properly balanced and at times hangs up. Unless it is going back to sea that
is a good way to leave it. .
DIMENSIONS: Overall 13 1/2″H x 10 1/4″W D
WEIGHT 11 pounds
Diameter of compass card 4 3/4″
Diameter of compass 6″
Compass card imprinted Hand, Philadelphia, USA under the North pointer
The compass card is tilted in the bowl and their is no fluid =left>
BRIEF HISTORY: The John E. Hand & Sons Company was founded in Philadelphia
in 1873, quickly gaining a reputation as competent manufacturers of nautical instruments and compass adjusters. The company
founder, John Enos Hand, is is reported to be “the first man in America to adjust a compass aboard an iron ship.”
The Hand Company built navigational equipment for all varieties of ships, and operated a chain of retail outlets with
service facilities in key ports, including Baltimore and New Orleans. Until 1956, these outlets sold Hand instruments
as well as other nautical accoutrement’s and provided compass adjusting services. Additionally, John E. and his two sons,
John L. and Bartram, were inventors, who patented design improvements for numerous instruments that were employed in the company’s
The back of the compass showing the flawless new nickel
The company was primarily involved in commercial
shipping until the late 1930s when the United States military began preparations for World War II. Though the Hand Company
never completely abandoned its involvement with private industry, after World War II, military contracts continued to be their
major business. Of note are the wrist compass, they developed for the Navy beginning in the 1950’s, and the Mark VII Model
5 Navy Standard Binnacle.
Though it moved numerous times, the Hand Company headquarters and factory remained in the Delaware Valley, occupying several
buildings in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Maintaining its central office in Philadelphia well into the 1900’s,
the factory was moved to Atco, New Jersey around the turn of the twentieth century and subsequently to Haddonfield, New Jersey.
It moved one last time in the 1960’s to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
In 1997, California-based Sunset Cliffs Merchandising Corporation purchased the Hand Company and all its assets for a small
amount, but did not make use of its brand name.
rare Skylight or Cathedral binnacle is almost ready to go to sea or it is suitable as a gift or as an addition
to any collection of fine marine artifacts.