Late 19th century T.S. & J.D. Negus brass OctantAlthough the scale reads until 120 degrees, this instrument still is an octant as it can only measure up to 93 degrees. This octant is a brass version of the older octant in my collection. The term 'octant' comes from the fact that the instruments arc covers 1/8th of a circle (=45º). The use of the mirror on the index arm multiplies this by 2, so an angle of up to 90º can be measured.
The box does not have any labels and looks like it has been re-lacquered. The instrument itself still has the original lacquer (although it suffered a bit from oxidation) and is signed T.S. & J.D. Negus, New York. It is not dated but was probably made somewhere between 1869 and approximately 1900.
Thomas Stewart (-/05/1828 - 03/17/1894) and John D. Negus (12/07/1832 - 09/26/1890) were both born in Lower Manhattan and were sons of Thomas Negus (born 1800, Bedfordshire, UK) who in 1812 went to the USA as an immigrant from England1. Their mother, Jane Davidson (born 1801, Newcastle, Northumberland, UK), came as an infant from North England.1 Thomas and John began making and selling chronometers in New York in 1848.2 John's son, John Stewart Negus (1858-1944) took over the business when his uncle died. John Stewart's son, John Clement Beebe Negus (1886-1961), first partnered with his father, and then took over the buiness in 1944 when his father died.1 John C. Negus died in 1961.1 John C. Negus's son, John Stewart Negus II (1923-1963) also worked for the Company. He died in 1963.1
The firm started at 100 Wall Street,1 New York City and was trading as Thos. S. Negus & Co. in 1864 and T.S. & J.D. Negus in 1869.2 They were described as '...probably the most prolific American chronometer manufacturer...' up through the first quarter of the 20th century.3
According to research of period U.S. Navy records, T.S. & J.D. Negus sold chronometers and other instruments to the U.S. Navy including compasses.3 From 1890 on they moved to 140 Water Street, Lower Manhattan, NY.1 On May 1st, 1931 they moved to 69 Pearl Street, New York.3
In 1937 the Negus brothers bought the Ritchie Compass Company and sixteen years later sold it to the Sherman Brothers in 1953.3. At that time Ritchie moved to Pembroke, Mass. The firm continued on 69 Pearl Street under the trade name "Negus" as a nautical instrument manufacturer and retailer into the 20th century.1,3
Negus was still a going concern in 1961.2 In addition to chronometers and compasses, Negus offered a wide range of instruments for nautical use.2
Notes: With many thanks to Betty Childs Klaviter (Great Great Granddaughter of John Davidson Negus, who is working on the NY NEGUS Family History).
: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
- Marvin Whitney, The Ship’s Chronometer, (Cincinnati, 1985), pp. 341-343.
- T. S. & J. D. Negus, Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of Nautical & Optical Instruments, (New York, 1892 and 1899).
- T. S. & J. D. Negus, Illustrated Catalogue of Nautical Instruments, (New York, ca. 1938).
[3>WhatsItWorthToYou.com (online appraisals): Elizabeth Parodi.
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