Object Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Title Stadimeter (optical rangefinder) made by Keuffel & Esser, New York, no date, circa 1918.
Object Name Stadimeter
Catalog Number 2009.001.0039
Collection Keuffel & Esser Company Collection
Credit Museum Collections.
Description Stadimeter made by Keuffel & Esser, New York, no date, circa 1918. Metal, glass, wood and bakelite; circa 11" long x 5-1/2" wide x 4-1/2" high. Mahogany wood case with hinged lid; fitted interior with green felt pads; handles on end; two printed paper labels inside lid. Compartment for electric battery inside wood handle beneath black metal cover (light bulb is below removable mount for magnifier which as mirror to light the drum beneath magnifier); momentary contact push button control for light.

This nautical instrument is an optical rangefinder typically used by a navigtion officer aboard a naval vessel. It was typically used to determine distance between ships or for other navigational purposes. See notes. This item has not been found in catalogs and is presumed to be an instrument made for the U.S. Government although it is not identified as such. It likely users would have been the U.S. Navy or U.S. Army Transport Service, but it would also have been useful for civilian merchant or passenger ships or agencies such as the U.S. Maritime Commission.

Stated on the large printed label inside lid: "Made by Keuffel & Esser Co., New York. " K&E had their main office and factories in Hoboken when this item was made. Item is marked on top of swivel bar: Keuffel & Esser Co. | New York | 37837. Also brass plate on box lid front center with K&E name and four branch offices, plus the number 37837punched on plate. If the number 37837 is a standard serial number in the company's established system, then this dates this item to 1918. The branch offices listed and the latch style (appear original and curiously rather fancy as they are wide brass decorated in relief with an art nouveau motif) on the case reinforce the perception that this was made in this era.

The overall style along with some details are similar to the ones made by Schick International of Stamford, CT. While stadimeters are known to have been used in World War I, further research is necessary concerning the date range of this item.

NOTE: the eyepiece can be seen stored off the instrument in the fitted case and is shown in images in position. The instrument CANNOT store in case with the eyepiece attached.
Date 1918-1918
Year Range from 1918
Year Range to 1918
Search Terms K & E
Keuffel & Esser Co.
U.S. Navy
U.S. Army
Caption case exterior closed; detail clasp and maker's plate
Imagefile 068\20090010039.JPG
Notes Description of the stadimeter from the website of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Behring Center, November 2009:

The stadimeter is an optical rangefinder developed by Bradley Allen Fiske (1854-1942), an officer in the United States Navy. It was designed for gunnery purposes, but its first sea tests, conducted in 1895, showed that it was equally useful for fleet sailing and for navigation. The stadimeter uses a system of mirrors, as in a sextant, to bring two images into coincidence. In practice, a sailor would identify a distant ship, adjust the stadimeter for its mast-head height (a figure available in published accounts), bring the image of the mast-head into coincidence with the water line, and read the distance on the instrument’s drum. Stadimeters were widely used in World War I and again in World War II.

Classification Manufacturing
Business & Commerce