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Important 19th Century Binnacle with Compass, Sir WM. Thomson (Lord Kelvin) & J. White Maker, Glasgo
Important 19th Century Binnacle with Compass, Sir WM. Thomson (Lord Kelvin) & J. White Maker, Glasgo Price: $0.00
Product Code: RIGI10

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Historically important brass binnacle with Sir William Thomson's patented dry card compass, circa 1876. Engraved in the side of the binnacle housing ‘SIR WILLIAM THOMSON’S PATENT NO 3606 J. WHITE GLASGOW.” Marked in the center of the compass housing bowl is “SIR WM. THOMSON PATENT NO 3746 J. WHITE MAKER GLASGOW REGISTERED WTB with the registered mark WTB in a circle.” The North Fleur des Lis is also marked "SIR W. THOMSON'S PATENT NO 5960 with register mark and J WHITE GLASGOW.

The binnacle is composed of heavy brass in two parts: The upper hood is designed to swivel off of the bottom section and features a removable light fixture on top with glass bottom, adjustable chimney with vent and a bell-shaped smoke bell A rope-turned shaped brass swing handle is affixed to the removable top. An oval viewing window is positioned in front. The lower section houses the compass and is designed with two outer convex rims of which the top rim creates the resting base for the hood. The original light-weight compass features a card with eight magnet needles. The central part is cut-away and the graduated rim suspended with 32 silk threads (S) attached to the cap. The compass is held in place with a removable twisted brass wire cable gimbal and suspended by two small chains. The interior bottom rim has numerous holes to affix to a surface or binnacle pedestal.

A later model of this compass was improved to prevent disturbance of the compass by the engines, or by the firing of guns (patent no. 4923, 1889) possessed even 14.

The binnacle housing measures 14 inches in diameter and 21 inches tall with the smoke bell screwed down.

CONDITION: Overall, this rare maritime instrument survives in good original condition, but with a few flaws. The painted bottom of the compass bowl has loss of paint chips, but is mostly there. The top light does not have an interior burner (just the housing) and the bottom glass is cracked, but intact. The smoke bell screw is slightly bent, but still functional. The oval viewing glass in the hood is a replacement. The brass binnacle surface was recently cleaned, removing old paint stains from the surface.

An exceptional rare marine instrument for display in a mariners museum or as an addition to the serious maritime collector. Way above the class of the average binnacle example!

We use Navis Pack & Ship in Chesapeake, Virginia (757)410-4643. Navis has expertise in packing and knowledge and partnerships in the transportation industry, making them a great partner with Skipjack Nautical Wares for getting anything fragile, large, awkward, or valuable to and from consumers and businesses worldwide.


William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), is one of the pre-eminent scientists of the 19th century. He attended Glasgow University from the age of 10, commencing university level work at the age of 14. In 1841 Thomson entered Cambridge, graduating in mathematics in 1845. In 1846 he was elected to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow. Although most famous for his contributions to thermodynamics, his work on heat led him to develop a dynamical theory for electricity and magnetism. He was the first to treat Faraday’s conception of lines of force mathematically. His work on electricity and magnetism is important for it led James Clerk Maxwell to develop the theory of electromagnetism. Thomson achieved his greatest fame through a telecommunications project: the laying of a submarine cable between Ireland and Newfoundland on which he started work in 1854. He played several roles, being on the board of directors and also being an advisor on theoretical electrical matters. Reprinted from the IEEE Photonics Society, Scotland, UK.

White, James Nationality: British
Brief Bio: 1824-1884, scientific instrument maker, Glasgow, Scottish; British Notes: 1839 - apprenticed to Gardner & Co., mathematical, optical, and philosophical instrument makers. 1850 - set up his own firm in Glasgow. 1854 - started making instruments for William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), professor of natural philosophy at Glasgow University. 1857 - in partnership with John Haddin Barr, traded as White and Barr. 1861 - applied for sequestration (bankruptcy). 1858 - credited with improving Thomson's patent for a mirror galvanometer for the Atlantic telegraph project. 1870 - equipped and set up Thomson's new laboratory at Gilmorehill. 1876 - elected a member of the Glasgow Philosophical Society.

Kelvin and White- Nationality: Scottish; British Brief Bio: 1900-1907, manufacturer of electrical measuring equipment, Glasgow, Scotland.
Notes: 1900 - business established and located at Cambridge Street, Glasgow;
1907 - company name changed to Kelvin, Bottomley and Baird Ltd.
manufactured equipment invented and patented by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson)

There is a J. White Dry Card Compass with Binnacle on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History This model accompanied William Thomson's 1880 application for an American patent for an improved mariner’s compass. Not currently on display.

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