Early Sextant / Quintant With Personal History

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Brass Quintant – Sextant      Ca 1860

An exceptionally fine instrument with a known and interesting history.  It was the personal quintant-sextant
of a famous mid-west yachtsman, which he used to navigate the long-distance races on Lake Michigan, probably from 1935 forward until his death. He also had it with him on at least two ocean passages aboard ships. Olson was a well-known Milwaukee and Chicago area yachtsman who was a commodore of the Milwaukee Yacht Club and one of the founders and first
chairman of the Island (Mackinac) Goats Sailing Society. Beyond his sailboat racing, Hobart
was a very private person and little is known of his personal life other than he graduated from the University
of Wisconsin in 1923. This is in contrast to his wife, Susan Bolton, ne’ Hayden, a Chicago socialite whom he married in 1947. At the time of winning Class “D” in the 1941 Chicago to Mac race, Olson had sailed in nineteen of these events. His yacht at that time was ” Duchess”
only 31.6 feet long making her the smallest boat in the fleet.  Susan Olson was equally active in sailboat racing
and the boat was sometimes entered under her name. She served three years during WW II as a Navy lieutenant, commissioned a
Navy destroyer, and was active in numerous civic, social, and charitable organizations. Susan died in 1998 at age 93.


The Chicago to Mackinac Race has been sponsored by the Chicago Yacht Club since 1898. At 333 miles, it is the longest freshwater race
in the world and is as challenging as any ocean race of the same distance.

THE MAKER: Marked on the arc in the early style Copper Plate script is J.J. Wilson &
Sons, Sunderland, which helps date the instrument as an early style. There are no other known examples of a sextant or quintant by JJ
Wilson listed in the comprehensive work, Sextants at Greenwich or the Webster Database of Instrument Makers at the Adler
Planetarium, so that it likely was made by one of the better-known makers such as one of the Spencer companies whose design and
serial number sequence closely follow. This would account for its high quality from
an unknown instrument maker. J.J. Wilson & Son could have been the original dealer offering the sextant on a private-label basis.

This is a Mid to late 19th Century brass, ladder frame quintant reading to 150° along a
graduated platinum arc with vernier, and brass fittings. The serial number 6877 is above
75° which is the same position that Spencer, Browning & Rust is known to have placed it.  Spencer, Browning & Rust and its successor,
Spencer, Browning, were acknowledged as two of England’s foremost early instrument makers and ranked alongside Throughton Brothers. It comes with a high-powered telescope for collimation, a star scope, and a sighting tube,  and is housed in a well-worn Mahogany box.

REFERENCES by omission: “Sextants at Greenwich”, by Bruyns, which
catalogs the collection of the British National Maritime
Museum at Greenwich, England in which there is no

LABELS: On the top and front
cover of the box: ‘Union Castle Line to/from South &
East Africa, MV Silverpalm, Jova, Pacific, and a tax stamp. On the outside
bottom: a partial sticker with the name ‘Hubert Olson,
date of sailing 19 June ’38, from the port of Southampton England’.
On the inside: Service by ‘Hutchinson and
Jackson, Certified Compass Adjusters, Sunderland, 1935’. A partial
label with the inscription ‘Milwaukee Yacht Club – Dutchess’
Marked by pen on
the top of a wood chock, Hobart Olsen, M.Y.C.In addition to being used on
Lake Michigan the quintant crossed

CONDITION: The index
mirror has one hazy spot but is otherwise in excellent condition
and the horizon mirror is clear and bright. The Mahogany handle has turned finials. The index arm clamp and
swing arm magnifier
are complete and in good working order. The holders for both sets
of shades, i.e., filters are present, but one index shade has
a chip on the lens and one has the glass missing. Also, missing is a
glass screen over the vernier, a tiny screw on the magnifier base. and two
lens filters for the ocular lens of the scopes. The original pick
for adjusting the mirrors is present. The instrument was recently polished and lacquered to
show its beautiful workmanship. This instrument is in overall fine
condition and is suitable for a high-quality collection of instruments
or as an important gift.
CASE: The square case
has a significant age crack across the top, and bottom, but is sound. There are a series
of shipping labels on the top and bottom. The instrument and its
accessories are housed in holders. There are two latches and a lock, but
no key, and no handle. It has a wonderful old patina that only comes
with natural aging. Expect the normal nicks and scrapes from years of
the instrument is complete with:
sighting tube
One high-powered collimation
scope One adjustment
The polished arc and platinum scale is calibrated from -5 to +150
degrees with a vernier scale reading from the right from 0 to 10 arc
seconds in 2 arc second intervals. The quintant has four partially
rounded shades for the index mirror and three round shades for the
horizon mirror. The telescope’s distance from the frame may be adjusted
by turning a knob at the back of the rising

Dealer’s name in Copper
Plate Script


Vernier reading from 0″ to 20″ from right



Index mirror



Machinery showing swing arm magnifier, and high
powered collimation scope

CERTIFICATE: There is no
certificate which is customary with antique instruments.
All in all, a highly desirable and
an exceptional example which would make a great trophy for some prestigious sailing event.

Length of index arm 9 1/2″
Radius of index arm 8 3/4″       Width of frame at arc 10 1/2″

Index mirror  42 x 35 mm

Horizon mirror 24 x 24 mm
Weight 3 Lbs 2 1/2 oz<
Case 10″ x10 3/4″ x 4 3/4″

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