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Small 1835 Oscar Hanks Vernier Compass, possible Bow/Hoop Compass? For Sale

Small 1835 Oscar Hanks Vernier Compass, possible Bow/Hoop Compass?

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Small 1835 Oscar Hanks Vernier Compass, possible Bow/Hoop Compass?:

This isvery niceOscar Hanks Vernier compass, it is missing the sight vanes(or bow/hoop if it ever had one). Has an adjustment on the compass needle, a sign of quality typical of Oscar Hanks. This compass measures 9 1/2 inches long and has a 5 3/8" long compass needle. Comes with what you see in the photos and nothing else, no box either. Postage is $15.00if within the US, more If you are outside the US; no charge for careful packing.

Here is some information on the Hanks family of makers:

Oscar Hanks


The Hanks family reputation as Clock and Watch makers, Bell Founders, Iron founders and Surveying Instrument makers dates back to when Benjamin Hanks (1755-1824) apprenticed with Thomas Harland (1735-1807) in Norwich, Connecticut.

Family History:

Benjamin began his apprenticeship with Harland in 1772 and completed it in 1776. During his apprenticeship, in 1775, Benjamin married Alice Hovey (1754 - 1825) and they had ten children, including Julius (1784-1846). During the last year of his apprenticeship Benjamin made a tall case musical clock which is signed "Benjamin Hanks, Norwich, CT, 1776". While in Connecticut, Benjamin expanded his business from clock and watch making to making surveyors' compasses, church bells and cannons. It appears that his brother Alpheus (1777-1831) and sons Truman (1782-1846), Julius (1784-1846) and Horatio (1790-1838) also became involved in Benjamin's business during his time in Connecticut. They also worked with him when he moved to the Troy, NY area in 1808; his brother Alpheus was 31 years old, his son Truman 26 years old, his son Julius 24, and his son Horatio, 18. Julius had married Olive McCall that same year (1808). Benjamin left his Connecticut business to be managed by Truman while he and Julius began a bell and brass founding business in Gibbonsville (West Troy), NY, advertising as "Benjamin Hanks & Son." It appears that he immediately turned the business over to Julius; the August 30, 1808 issue of the "Troy Gazette" had Julius's advertisement which lists his business as a "Bell Foundry" where he made Church Bells and also manufactured "Surveyors' Compasses." It appears that Benjamin then continued his own foundry. In 1811 he joined with his friend Ephraim Gurley as Hanks, Gurley & Co. with an iron foundry which went on to cast bells, and particularly stoves. Their business eventually became Troy Air Furnace Co. and became famous for making cast iron stoves.

It is interesting to note that the Hanks, Meneelys and Jonas V. Oothout, all well -known Troy, NY surveying instrument makers, were blood relations. Business relationships existed between the Hanks, Meneelys, Oothouts, Phelps and Gurleys as surveying instrument makers.

As soon as they arrived in Troy in 1808 Benjamin began his own foundry and Julius operated the bell and instrument making business. In 1816 Horatio (1790-1838) moved from Mansfield, Connecticut to the Gibbonsville, NY area to join his father Benjamin and brother Julius. Just four years later, in 1820, Horatio moved to Auburn, NY and began making surveyors' compasses and bells. In 1823 his first cousin (through his Uncle Rodney Hanks), 21 year-old Andrew Meneely (1802-1851) joined Horatio and continued with him until 1826 when Horatio moved back to Troy. Andrew had apprenticed with Julius from 1817 until 1823 when he left to work with Horatio in Auburn, NY.

Julius's son Oscar was born on July 30, 1810 in Gibbonsville (West Troy), New York. He received a college education at Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute between 1827 and 1831. He probably began working with his father as soon as he graduated in 1831. Julius's first advertisements began in 1808 and the last I have found was dated 1829. He advertised as a Bell Founder and manufacturer of "Surveyor's Compasses, Scales and Protractors." His ads never included the words "Bow Circumferentor".

Between 1829 and the July 22, 1833 patenting of Julius's Compass, no ads are found by either Julius or his son Oscar. Julius never advertised again, but Oscar began advertising in 1835 as a manufacturer of Church Bells and the "Bow Circumferentor." Oscar continued to advertise until 1846, changing his description from "Bow Circumferentor" to "Bow Compass". None of his ads ever gave his father Julius credit for inventing the "Bow Circumferentor."

On July 22, 1833, the U.S. Patent Office issued a Patent to Julius Hanks of Troy, New York, entitled "Compass and Magnetic Needle", with a subtitle "Improvement upon the Surveyor's Compass".

On October 22, 1833 the newspaper "The Liberator" of Boston, MA carried an article entitled "Bow Circumferenter." The article quoted from a circular produced by Julius Hanks which extolled the virtues of the compass and wrote, "The price of the above instrument will vary from $40.00 to $100.00; according to the finishing of them." While subtle in its wording, it is clear by the wording of Hank's circular that he was not producing his compass at that time. It is also clear that Hanks himself had only referred to the circular sight vane as a "Bow". It appears that the "Liberator" coined the phrase "Bow some claims, twelve of the Bow Circumferentors' are known to be in existence. I have been able to document eight. There are several things that should be Julius or Oscar Hanks called the compass a "Hoop Compass". It appears that Charles E. Smart was the first to call it by that name. The Hanks advertised it as a "Bow Circumferentor" and/or Bow Compass".

It appears that Oscar Hanks never settled on a definite pattern for constructing the Bow Circumferentor. Some of the dial faces were lettered in the "European Style" (NESW in a clockwise direction) and some were lettered in the "American Style" (NWSE in a clockwise two leveling vials were inset either into the compass face or the raised outer ring. In one instance the circumferentor has only one level vial. There is a great variation in where the two "crossed"vials were, including at the North, East, South and West points of the compass. All of the compass needles have a nonius on one end of the needle; this is the one consistent feature of all the compasses, and seems to indicate that this is one of its features which Julius intended to patent in his July 22, 1833 patent.

The Vermont Museum circumferentor has a magnetic declination vernier set into the raised outer ring of the compass; none of the others have this. There are variations in the needle lengths, bow diameter, and compass case size. It is also interesting to note that on page 77 of Smart's book he claims that Julius Hanks compass was dated "1830"; this is three years before Hank's patent and may have been a transcription error by Oscar Hanks was born in Gibbonsville (now Watervliet), New York about 1810, the second child and first son of Julius Hanks and a grandson of Colonel Benjamin Hanks; both instrument makers. Oscar Hanks died in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1883. He is listed in the Troy, New York directories from 1831 through 1845-46 as a mathematical instrument maker. He is listed in the Chicago directories 1856-57 and 1860; the Cincinnati directories from 1876 to 1883.

In the May 21, 1830 issue of the Troy Sentinel (New York), there is an advertisement to the effect that A. (Alpheus) & T. (Truman) Hanks have purchased the establishment of Julius Hanks in Troy and that Julius Hanks will be their agent. Alpheus was the brother and Truman was the son of Benjamin Hanks. Then, in the July 1, 1834 issue of the Troy Daily Whig, Oscar Hanks, son of Julius Hanks, advertises that he is the successor to A. & T. Hanks and that he will continue in the same line at the same

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