Lietz wooden ships binnacle

Sep 29, 2019. 13:41 UTC
Lietz wooden ships binnacle
United States of America

Antiques & curio

Acquired from

For sale

Fully functional A.Lietz Co mahogany/brass, circa 1900 ships binnacle 45” h x 13” dia.


Bought at antiques shop in NJ in 1982

$800 - $1,000 (United States Dollar)
Answered within about 5 hours
Sep 29, 18:57 UTC
By David

Hello Scott,
Thank you for sending in your marine binnacle compass to for an appraisal. I will try to help you with that today.
Antique, mahogany, teak and brass, standing ship’s deck binnacle compass, Standard type, made by the A. Lietz Company, S/N 11XXX, San Francisco, California, USA, circa 1900-1910. Electrified.
This ship’s helmsman’s binnacle compass stands 45” x 13”. The round planked binnacle stand is made of vertical mahogany boards resting on a square teak base with straight bracket feet (the base is an aftermarket addition in teak-wood). The stand has a mounted brass plaque reading. “Standard Compass, A. Lietz Co., San Francisco, U.S.”{See History below} There is a partially legible serial number which appears to be in the 11,000 range (early years of the 20th century). Usually the Lietz binnacles are surmounted by a copper helmet top with glass(es) windows for viewing the compass and providing protection from the sun. This instrument has a hexagonal metal alloy and paneled glass skylight cover which is thought to be original to this binnacle.(I have seen this type of shaped hood on a binnacle made by Lionel during the 1940s) Also at the upper level are two brass arms each holding a quadrantal corrector painted black (Quadrantal Corrector -either of two soft-iron spheres attached to each side of a binnacle, intended to correct the compass deviation, i.e. the quadrantal deviation, resulting from magnetism from ferrous metal in a ship.) Also visible on the exterior surface of the barrel shaped mahogany stand is a black painted metal tube attached to the stand with brass brackets top and bottom. This is the Flinders bar, a vertical soft iron bar placed in a tube on the fore side of a compass binnacle. The Flinders bar is used to counteract the vertical magnetism inherent within a ship and is usually calibrated as part of the process known as swinging the compass, where deviations caused by this inherent magnetism are negated by the use of horizontal (or quadrantal) correctors. The electrical component which plugs into a house current outlet is obviously added and was not used in the years around the turn of the century. The electricity proves light from below to illuminate the compass. The compass card sits within a cast bronze bowl which may have lead at the bottom for ballast. This is a dry card type compass.The bowl is attached to a ring which does not appear to be attached to gimbals (it is almost impossible for me to tell from these photos whether this ring is gimbaled or fixed). Whether this is a gimbaled ring or not, the card is set within a verge ring (analogous to a dial bezel on a clock). The readings on the dial are quite clear and the Cardinal point (north) is accompanied by a Fleur-de-Lys surrounded by the maker’s name, A. Lietz Company, San Francisco. There are marked compass directions placed every 45 degrees and the outer scale indicates each of the 360 degrees with bar markers with Arabic markers placed every ten degrees. In the center of the dial is the pivot and cap with the magnetic system of the compass and pivot support just below the card. The design of the card and bowl allows it to be lit from underneath.I assume the compass functions normally.
The mahogany stand has been reinforced with nails, hopefully brass nails. The base may is a proper replacement using teak which was often used to construct early binnacles. There is an old patina on parts of the brass, such as the arms holding the quadrantal spheres. Electrified. Overall in very good condition and a handsome marine antique.
Adolph Lietz was born in Leubeck, Germany in 1860. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1879 and worked in several scientific instrument shops before opening his own business. Lietz purchased the business of Carl Rahsskopff in 1880 and began his own business in 1882. Lietz originally joint ventured with another maker, Gottlieb A. Mauerhan, to form "Lietz and Mauerhan," a relationship that lasted for about a year. Following Mauerhan's departure, Lietz paired up with Conrad J. Weinmann who had previously worked for Carl Rahsskopff. The company was renamed "A. Lietz & Co." and at that time produced surveying instruments and related tools. The firm incorporated in 1892 under the name "The A. Lietz Company" and Weinmann possibly left at about that time. In 1910 a complete line of drafting materials and engineering equipment was added. In 1947, after 65 years of production, the firm discontinued the manufacturing of surveying instruments. The reason given was that it would be necessary and very costly to retool in order to manufacture the types of modern instruments then being marketed. Their business changed to being an importer and distributor. In 1960 the company started handling the Umeco brand of surveying instruments and then added instruments from Japan made by Sokkisha. The Frank Paxton Company purchased the business in 1965 and moved its headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. The company name was also changed to "The Lietz Company." Additional restructuring took place during the early 1990's and the firm name was again changed, this time to "Sokkia."
Comparing this example to other Lietz and similar binnacles:
~ (sold for $500 in 2017)
~ (sold for $1000 in 2013)
~ (sold for $550 in 2018)
~ (offered on E-Bay, made in Boston with a "skylight" hood failed to sell for $495.)
The range of fair market value I have placed on your example is in the $800-$1000 range in today's marketplace.
Thank you for sending this to for an appraisal. I hope that this has been of some help to you.
My Best,

Scott bacheler Sep 29, 21:25 UTC

Thanks David for your evaluation. A few comments. The glass and brass top I believe is original. The tubular attachment to the back is brass and might be for storing a chart? Also I believe compass is a dry type? Base I made from teak shortly after I bought the binnacle. Will any of these change the value?
Thanks, Scott

David Sep 30, 00:51 UTC

Hi Scott,
I appreciate the further information you supplied, especially about the skylight pediment, the added teak base and that this is a dry card type of compass. I have updated the appraisal with that information and have increased the fair market price range.
Best regards,

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