Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Ferdinand R. Hassler’s List of Scientific lnstruments Procured for the United States Coast Survey, November 1815


Ferdinand R. Hassler’s List of Scientific Instruments Procured for the United States Coast Survey

General List of Mathematical Instruments and Books, destined for the survey of the Coast of the United States, delivered into the custody of Robert Patterson Esqe Director of the Mint in Philadelphia, by F. R. Hassler, after his return from the mission for this object; in November 1815.—

No  1. One Theodolite of two feet diameter, of very improved construction, silver arch readings by three micrometer microscopes, wire micrometers in the Telescopes &c made by Mr Edward Troughton.1
 2. Two double repeating Theodolites of twelve inches diametre, on principles suggested by F. R. Hassler, with full vertical circle, double repeating, made by the same.
 3. Two double repeating Circles, on the principles of Borda, of improved construction, vertical & horizontal circles, both of eighteen inches diameter, readings to the back telescope &c made by the same.
 4. Four double repeating reflecting circles of ten inches diameter, on principles suggested by F. R. Hassler.—Spirit level for small angles of elevation,2 made by the same.
 5. Four Stands to the above with artificial horizons of mercury; covered with a glass hat.
 6. Two double repeating Reflecting circles, in all respects exactly equal to those in No 4. except no levels.—made by the same.
 7. Two artificial horizons to the above, of mercury; covered with a glass hat.
 8. Two artificial horizons of plane glass with ground spirit levels; the one of dark glass, the other of plate glass, blackened on the lower plane.
 9. Two surveying Theodolites of nine inches diameter, of common construction.
10. Two surveying Compasses of one foot needle in length:—construction directed by F. R. Hassler.—Silvered plate—needles inverting—telescope describing a full vertical; spirit levels: center work for the stand, made by Thomas Jones.
11. Two Alhidades for plane tables.—construction invented by F. R. Hassler. Telescopes arranged like transit instruments. made by the same.
12. Two center works to the plane tables; to be used with the above two sets of brass spring clamps, to hold the paper on the plane table.
13. Two sets of apparatus for measuring base lines, by an arrangement invented by F. R. Hassler, giving an optical determination of the end-points of the bars—each consisting of the following parts. vizt
    a. Four iron bars, upwards of seven3 feet in length; not yet standarded, because they were intended to be cut to a proper standard on the most authentic measures, by F. R. H.—
b. Various screw works & rollers for the motion of these bars; and [the boxes]4 they must be put in when in use.
c. A sector with a spirit level, to measure the inclination of5 these bars, screwed on the part making the motion in the direction of the length of the bars.6
d. Four Thermometers with Farenheit & Centigrade scales mounted to be fixed to the bars; the balls sheltered with brass cups.7
e. A Telescope arrangement to direct the boxes of the bars in the direction of8 three rectangular ordinates, carrying microscopes, in which the object lenses consist of two halves of different foci; by which the image of cross lines on these stands is brought in the same focus with that of the ends of the bars, which are cut out to admit a cobweb to spread over the ends: the optical contact of which two images determines the place of the ends of the bars, in like manner as Hadleys instrument does the image from the great mirror and the object viewed directly.
14. One Standard English measure of 82 inches in length, divided on Silver in tenths of inches; microscopes and micrometers for comparisons, and an arrangement with a cutting tool, to divide scales from it. made by Mr Edward Troughton.9
16. One brass metre standarded by Lenoir in Paris from his brass metre, which was made at the same time, and standarded at the temperature of melting ice, together with those distributed by the Committee of weights & measures in Paris, to all the deputies of different nations; compared also at the observatory of Paris, with their standards.
N.B, this brass meter of Mr Lenoir being the only one in this metal made by the Committee of weights & measures in Paris; gives therefore also the only means to a direct comparison of french and english measures, without reductions for expansion of different metals; the latter having their standards in brass, and the former in iron.
A Certificate of the comparisons of No 15 & 16 accompanying them, signed Arrago & Bouvard, & sealed by the seal of the observatory.
No 15— One Iron toise standarded by Lenoir in Paris, and compared with the standards of the observatory there.
17. One Iron metre, standarded by Lenoir.
18. One Iron tool, to file bars off perpendicularly, in standarding measures.
19  An Iron plane, to use on metals & on wood.
20. One strong scale with accurate standarded english weights; made by Mr Edwd Troughton.
21. Two standard subdivided Kylogrames, of parallelopipedon form, made by Fortin, in Paris.
22  Two Litres modeles, with ground glass plate covers, standard. by Fortin, in Paris.
23. Two transit instruments of very improved construction; telescopes of five feet, illumination through the axis, shades to the object-glasses, silver arched semicircles with levels at the eye ends to point by; spring counterpoises &c &c made by Mr E. Troughton.
24. Two astronomical Clocks, of the same improved construction as those lately made by the same artist and inventor, Mr Wm Hardy, for the observatories of Greenwich & Glasgow.10 spring scapement, silver plated dial, compensation by a glass cylinder with mercury, acting as [lens of]11 the pendulum.
25. Two one day box chronometers with silver dial plates, compensation of the balance and for short and long vibration the invention of the maker, the said Mr Hardy.
26. One box chronometer of Brockbanks, of two days going, for the case of accidental omission of winding.
27. Two one-day box chronometers, of the same.
28. One one-day box chronometer, of extraordinary good performance, of Messrs Grimaldi & Johnson.
29. Two one-day silver pocket chronometers, of Brockbanks.
30 One time piece shewing the 1300 of a second; going only when in use; for determinations of velocities of sound, falling bodies &c made by Mr William Hardy, at the suggestion of F. R. Hassler
31. One six feet achromatic telescope, of Dollond: four inches aperture of the object-glass; six astronomical and one terrestrial eye-tubes. a finder, the tube unscrewing in three pieces. Mahogany stand of two parts, securing the telescope in two places, for greater steadiness.
32. One five feet achromatic Telescope of Dollond; 3¾ inches aperture of object glass; one terrestrial & six astronomical eye-tubes: lantern illumination by a small mirror in the center; a finder, brass equatorial motion, shifting brasses, mahogany folding stand and steadying rods.
33. One five feet achromatic Telescope; four inches aperture of object glass, tube in two parts; four astronomical and one terrestrial eye-tube; level on the tube; a finder, equatorial mahogany folding stand with steadying rods. Made by Tulley.
34. One four feet eight inches achromatic Telescope; three inches aperture of the object-glass; four astronomical & two terrestrial eye-tubes; tube in two parts; a finder; equatorial mahogany folding stand with steadying rods. Made by Tulley.—
35. One three and a half feet achromatic Telescope; 2¾ inches aperture; simple brass tube, without stand or finder; six astronomical & one terrestrial eye-tube. Made by Dollond.
36. One three & a half feet achromatic Telescope, of 2¾ inches aperture of object glass; two terrestrial & three astronomical eye-pieces; brass stand with mahogany steadying rods. Made by Mr Troughton.12
37. Three double wire micrometers, of Dollond, on Mr Troughton’s construction, with prisms before the eye-piece, for objects near the zenith;—two of them fitting the Telescopes No 31 & 32, and one fitting those under No 33, 34, 35 & 36.
38. One top joint and socket for a Telescope, for easy transportation in the fields, to fit any telescope.
39. Six mountain-Barometers mounted in brass tubes; made by Mr Troughton on his improved construction.
40. Two Thermometers, Farenheits & Reaumurs divisions on silvered scales, going to boiling water; Glass face & mahogany case; for the use of observatories within doors. made by Mr Edward Troughton.
41. Two Thermometers on box wood scales, brass shelter to the balls; for the use of observatories before the windows. made by mr E. Troughton.
42. Four detached Spirit-levels mounted in brass, of two different sizes, for various purposes; made by the same
43. Two sets of Magnets; one of two large bars & one of four bars.
44. One Dynameter, or instrument to measure the magnifying power of13 Telescopes; of Mr Ramsdens invention; made by Mr Dollond.14
45. Two beam Compasses, with double rods of different lengths, change of points, & one sett to work on metals.—One made by Willm Cary; the other by Rt Fidler.
46. Three proportional Compasses, with perpendicular legs; made by Fidler.15
47. Two steel Rulers, five feet long. made by Fidler.
48. Four steel right angled triangles, of two different sizes, to fit the forementioned rulers. made by Fidler.
49. One Cabestan head screw key, pins in various16 directions.
 The following Articles were added to the Collection, to supply accidental losses on breaking; and for various accessary uses.
 1. Four17 setts of detached dark glasses.
 2. Nine simple & double reading magnifiers.
  NB. of these two articles there have been some18 used already, to replace such as had been forgotten in various boxes of instruments.19
 3 Six spare glass tubes, of proper size for the Barometers.
 4 Twelve spirit levels, in sizes for the instruments; tried by Mr Troughton.
 5 Three plates of parallel Glass.
 6 Two rolls of metal wire, for the plumblines.20
 7 Two bottles of Varnish.
 8. Twelve turn screws, in sizes two of each size.21
The catalogue of books contains 8722 volumes, all calculated for the use of fixed observatories.— 
The above instruments are sufficient to furnish two sets of surveyors—& two national observatories.—

Tr (ViU: TJP); in a clerk’s hand, with text after final numbered list in Robert Patterson’s hand; partially dated; endorsed by TJ: “Mathematical Instruments procured by mr Hassler for the US.” MS (PPAmP: Robert M. Patterson Papers); in Hassler’s hand; docketed in an unidentified hand: “List of U.S. Astronomical Instruments—depd with R. Patterson, by Mr. Hassler.” Printed in Message from the President of the United States transmitting a Report of Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the Measures which have been Taken to Complete an Accurate Survey of the Coast of the United States (Washington, 1816), 6–10, and in ASP, Commerce and Navigation, 2:27–9; both printed texts following the PPAmP MS more closely, with only the most significant differences noted below.

wire micrometers are used in telescopes that have cross wires at the focus of the eyepiece. A single thread from a spider’s cobweb was used in optical instruments (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). hadleys instrument: an octant invented by John Hadley for measuring angles by reflection (Gerard L’Estrange Turner, Nineteenth-Century Scientific Instruments [1983], 264–5). A toise is a French unit of lineal measure roughly equal to 1.949 meters or 6.4 feet (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). object-glasses are the objective lenses, those closest to the item under observation. scapement: “escapement.” mountain-barometers are modified for use as altimeters. cabestan: “capstan” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1ViU Tr: “Throughton.” All other texts: “Troughton,” and this spelling is also used later in ViU Tr.

2For preceding three words, printed texts substitute “vertical angles, &c.”

3Printed texts give this figure as seventy.

4Preceding two words, omitted, supplied from PPAmP MS. Printed texts: “the boxes which.”

5ViU Tr: “of of.”

6Printed texts omit this item and assign number 13c to next item on list, with the number 13d skipped in Message from the President.

7In place of preceding three words PPAmP MS substitutes “by projecting brass sides on the scales.”

8Sentence in PPAmP MS and printed texts ends here by adding “the base line.” Remainder of item 13e is then broken into an additional item 13f (PPAmP MS and Message from the President) and 13e (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends ), with new opening: “Three brass stands, with motion work in the direction of.”

9In left margin next to this entry in ViU Tr is written “No 15 vide forward.” Items 15 and 16 are in correct order in PPAmP MS and printed texts.

10ViU Tr: “Glascow.” All other texts: “Glasgow.”

11Preceding two words, omitted, supplied from PPAmP MS. Printed texts: “the lens of.”

12Descriptions of items here labeled 35 and 36 are reversed in printed texts.

13ViU Tr: “of of.”

14Printed texts list this item as number 38, with manuscript items 38–44 renumbered accordingly.

15PPAmP MS here interlines “and divided and adjusted by Mr Troughton.”

16Reworked to read “three” in PPAmP MS.

17Printed texts: “Two.”

18Word interlined in ViU Tr and not included in other texts.

19PPAmP MS here interlines “the above being the remaining ones.”

20Instrument list ends here in Message from the President.

21Remainder of ViU Tr in Patterson’s hand. Other texts instead include two itemized lists of books purchased by Hassler for use by observatories and the United States Coast Survey, with the first list consisting of books already received and the second those “contained in a Box which was forwarded from France to Guernesey in 1813, on peace being made returned to St Malo, & Mr Michaud in Paris undertook to forward them to Philadelphia, but they have not yet arived” (PPAmP MS).

22Reworked by Patterson from “78.”

Index Entries

  • alidades; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Arago, Dominique François Jean; and standard measures search
  • artificial horizon; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • barometers; mountain search
  • books; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Borda, Jean Charles de; and surveying instruments search
  • Borda’s circle (surveying instrument) search
  • Bouvard, Alexis; and standard measures search
  • Brockbank, John; scientific-instrument maker search
  • Cary, William; scientific-instrument maker search
  • chronometers; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • clocks; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • cobwebs; used in optical instruments search
  • compass (magnetic); surveying search
  • compass (mathematical tool); beam search
  • compass (mathematical tool); proportional search
  • Dollond, Mr.; scientific-instrument maker search
  • dynameters; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Fidler, Robert; scientific-instrument maker search
  • files (tools) search
  • Fortin, Jean Nicolas; scientific-instrument maker search
  • Glasgow, Scotland; observatory at search
  • Greenwich Observatory, England; astronomical clock at search
  • Grimaldi & Johnson (London firm); scientific-instrument makers search
  • Hadley, John; and astronomical instruments search
  • Hardy, William; scientific-instrument maker search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; and instruments for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Hassler, Ferdinand Rudolph; scientific-instrument maker search
  • Jones, Thomas (1775–1852); scientific-instrument maker search
  • Lenoir, Étienne; scientific-instrument maker search
  • magnets; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Michaux, François André; and books for the U.S. Coast Survey search
  • micrometers; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • octant; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Patterson, Robert; director of U.S. Mint search
  • planes search
  • plane table; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Ramsden, Jesse; dynameter of search
  • reflecting circle; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • scales; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • scientific instruments; alidades search
  • scientific instruments; artificial horizon search
  • scientific instruments; barometers, mountain search
  • scientific instruments; chronometers search
  • scientific instruments; cobwebs used with search
  • scientific instruments; compasses, beam search
  • scientific instruments; compasses, proportional search
  • scientific instruments; dynameters search
  • scientific instruments; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • scientific instruments; magnets search
  • scientific instruments; micrometers search
  • scientific instruments; octants search
  • scientific instruments; plane tables search
  • scientific instruments; reflecting circles search
  • scientific instruments; scales search
  • scientific instruments; spirit levels search
  • scientific instruments; telescopes search
  • scientific instruments; theodolites search
  • scientific instruments; thermometers search
  • scientific instruments; transit instruments search
  • spirit level; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • surveying; and J. C. Borda’s circle search
  • surveying; and measuring baselines search
  • surveying; compass for search
  • surveying; U.S. Coast Survey search
  • telescopes; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • theodolite search
  • thermometers; for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • tools; compass, surveying search
  • tools; files search
  • tools; woodworking search
  • transits (scientific instruments); for U.S. Coast Survey search
  • Troughton, Edward; scientific-instrument maker search
  • Tulley, Charles; scientific-instrument maker search
  • varnish search
  • weights, measures, and coinage; standard measures of search