CLASSIC AND ELEGANT LARGE SKYLIGHT BINNACLE
PRESENTED is a larger than normal Danforth skylight
or cathedral binnacle with a Constellation compass. It was made under the “Danforth – White” brand name,
and discontinued after approximately 15 years from when the Wilfrid O. White Company was acquired in 1961. It is in the
preferred brass finish with six panels, and has a spherical compass which was the invention of White. Two of the
panels have etched vertical lines to allow for taking bearings, and one is a black filter to be sighted through
when taking amplitudes of the sun. Itis mounted on an vintage wood base, and is about
3 inches taller than the PERKO make which we recently sold. Danforth ceased making compasses in December, 2009.
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. And for those
interested, I insisted on having one on our ketch Bagheera which served us well during seven years of ocean cruising. PERKO
discontinued making them about 1954, and Ritchie did the same. The only source of skylight binnacles until recently was
from Danforth priced at $3400.00, but they discontinued compass production in 2009.
CONDITION: After all these years, the condition is exceptional,
and everything is almost in “like new” condition. The only fault is that the panes are made from Plexiglas and show some scratches
from polishing the brass up rights. It is equipped with an electric connection for the compass’ light.
The compass has been rebuilt, and the binnacle has just been professionally polished and lacquered for your enjoyment.
DIMENSIONS: Overall 14 1/2″H x 9″ D
WEIGHT 13 1/2 pounds with wood base
Diameter of Constellation compass card 5″
Diameter of compass 6″
for sighting Sun
PROVENANCE & BRIEF HISTORY: Wilfred O. White had a rich nautical family history, descending from a shipbuilding family that
dated back to 1600 England. Born in Melbourne Australia, White came to the United States in 1898 and married Ruth Eldridge,
the daughter of George Eldridge, who charted the first tide and current tables in U.S. White had studied with the Scottish Lord Kelvin of compass fame for
a year or more in Glasgow in the very early 1900’s. Kelvin’s work on magnetic compasses goes back to 1870, and the result
was quickly adopted by the world’s navies. After Kelvin’s death in 1907, White was chosen to be Kevin’s exclusive agent in
the United States by Kelvin’s successors and partners, Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird. The Kelvin & Wilfrid O. White and
Co. commenced operations in 1918. White, reportedly, had to pay LIST price, in advance with his orders. This became
a thorn in Wilfred’s side, and it ultimately lead him to develop his own design improvements which were marketed under
the Kelvin – Wilfrid O. White brand. He is said to have invented the spherical compass in the 1940;s and his son
Wilfrid Gordon later improved upon it’s design.
The Wilfrid White company sold out to the Eastern Company
which consolidated it operations with Danforth’s Marine Hardware, first in Naugatuck, CT and then moved the Danforth- White
Division to Portland, ME in 1961. Compasses continue to be produced under the Danforth – White label. In the 1970’s Danforth
dropped the Danforth – White brand and marketed their compasses as Danforth. In 2009, Danforth ceased compass production
entirely so this example shall become more valuable as time goes on.