Stock Number: 9261


KIMBER CLEAVER'S MARKING PROTRACTOR, American, c. mid-19th century, boldly signed "Young & Sons, Philada., Pa."


6-1/2 x 6-5/8 inches (16.5 x 17 cm)


c. mid-19th century

Country of manufacture

North America

Categories: Scientific, Drawing Instruments, Surveying Instruments & Mining


KIMBER CLEAVER’S MARKING PROTRACTOR, American, c. mid-19th century, boldly signed “Young & Sons, Philada., Pa.” This very substantial instrument is made of brass, 6-1/2″ x 6-5/8″ (16.5 x 17 cm), with distinctive X-form superstructure carrying the 5″ diameter divided circle, clamp and long tangent screw. The circle has a silver degree scale divided every half-degree and labeled with directional headings (e.g., SW 210°). The circle is mounted with four knobs for rotation and four spring-loaded marking pins. Rotation is very smooth and sure. There is an external one-arcminute vernier in silver. Condition is very fine, the brass darkening a bit. The instrument is quite handsome with its distinctive design and combination of finishes (clear lacquered and chemically darkened brass, blued steel springs, and silver scales).
       We note a smaller example of this rare instrument in Tesseract Catalogue 70 Item 26. Kimber Cleaver (1814 – 1858) started out as a teacher, but quickly rose to become the great mining engineer of the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania. He developed various mining inventions, and his innovative protractor, but held no patents, preferring to benefit the common good. Cleaver is credited with the original idea of laying the Atlantic cable. His mother is recorded as a Quaker, but he allied himself with the Native American political party, eventually running for Governor on that ticket. The maker is the famous firm established by William J. Young (born Scotland 1800, died Philadelphia 1870). In 1813 he was apprenticed to Thomas Whitney, and went on to become America’s foremost surveying instrument maker of the mid-19th century. The rugged precision construction of this device is quite like that on his examples of Burt’s solar compass, and in fact on his production of Burt’s solar sextant (see Tesseract Catalogue 43 Item 28).

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David and Yola Coffeen both have enjoyed academic careers, as planetary astronomer and as linguist/educator. But since 1982 (yes, 1982!) they have been full-time dealers in early scientific and medical instruments, under the name Tesseract. Selling primarily by catalogue (over 100 issued so far) they also have a web presence at, and can be contacted at [email protected].

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