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NOTE: This chapter describes only a part of Taylor's production (for details about the company click HERE).
For more information on the antique instruments, we recommend the book COMPASS CHRONICLES (s. in our LINKS).
See also the compass integrated in a waterproof matchbox made of Bakelite.

PROFILE - Former U.S. manufacturer located in Rochester, New York, famous among other things for his numerous pocket compasses and for a WWII paratrooper wrist compass (see this category).

Apparently, the idea of giving the compass models funny names originated from the British manufacturer Short & Mason who had produced a marching compass called Magnapole although J. H. Steward was the first to call a compass Cbynite (without 'ee'. After merging with S&M, Taylor continued to produce the already existing models and extended the product range. Some new models resulted from a technical development, a client's requirement or an evolution of the measuring procedures (radium luminous markings, change from quadrant numbering to 360 dial) but the majority of them was only designed to create a new, sometime luxurious variety (gold-plated versions).
The general whole history covered four different stages: The original open-face or hunter-cased models generally featuring a classical star-shaped rose of winds were followed by modified dial designs (square center symbol). Thereafter came the plain aluminum cases, then the octogonal bakelite and lastly the plastic cases.

Picture at left: booklet by Taylor (24 p., 1915 - click on image for view of page with four Taylor pocket compasses)

The earliest catalog that we know of * (1916/17) offers eight different designs going by pairs, four open-faced and four hunter-cased (see examples in the table below), some of which had been created and sold by Short  & Mason. A ninth one called the Usanite was also being utilized by the soldiers in WW1 and was marked 'ENG. DEPT. U.S.A.' (plus the year of production) on the lid. Moreover, Taylor produced like almost all other manufacturers of the moment a model consistent with the Mark VI design (examples: see Dennison, Terrasse). The 1931 catalog** listed two more names, the Telaway and an Official  Boy Scout compass. Advertisements generally present one of the various models.

Most of them were designed and manufactured in cooperation with the famous British company Short & Mason. The first compass series bore both company names. Some instruments marked TYCOS (short for Taylor Instruments Companies - see pic. at right) were also produced by the canadian plant in Toronto. Taylor numbered their models beginning with 2010. The number of later versions of some items was increased by 10 digits. This seems also to be consistent with the creation period (20's, 30's, 40's). Only the Telaway's number was 075 in an early catalog and 2005 afterwards.

* Catalogue picture by courtesy of Kornelia Takacs,
Catalogue picture by courtesy of "Freunde alter Instrumente".

Tables below: the various models and their evolution (click on the images for enlarged views)

Aurapole Boy Scouts Ceebynite Flodial Girl Scouts
Gydawl Gydeway Leedawl Litenite Lumenite
Magnapole Meradial Showay Telaway Usanite

(lead all)

Technical Data - 2910
- Dia.: 43 mm
- Height: 11 mm
- Weight: 28 g
- Divisions: quadrants
- Transit lock: (Taylor patent) lever actuated by a screw in loop.
(see also 1931 catalogue)

- Cleaning and user instr. on box
The four first open-face items were redesigned with a bakelite case (patent* 2,027,952 - see page bottom) and the catalogue number was increased by 10 digits.
* Comments on TAYLOR patents: click HERE.

Bakelite case version with flat lozenge-shaped needle
(c.1936, no. 2920, compare with Magnapole below)

Click HERE for technical data (1938 catalogue)
(magnetic pole)

Technical Data - 2911
- Dia.: 43 mm
- Height: 11 mm
- Weight: 28 g
- Divisions: quadrants
(see also 1931 catalogue)
Markings on the pic. above around the pivot: SHORT & MASON TAYLOR ROCHESTER. On the compasses made before the patent was accepted (no marking or only 'Patents Pending', the cardinal points were all printed horizontally and not each along the radius.
NOTE: The name Magnapole had already been used by Taylor's partner Short & Mason (see pic at left) for a marching compass. It was re-used in the late 30s and 40s for the octagonal bakelite version


Technical Data
(Click on image above left)    Pic. at right courtesy "Jessica"
No. 2921 - 1938 catalogue

(floating dial)

Click on image for an enlarged view of the dial.
Click HERE for a view of an ad.

Technical Data - 2912
A simple floating card with no luminous markings
Divisions: 360 deg. (see also 1931 catalogue)

Click on image for technical data
No. 2922 - 1938 catalogue

(light at night)

Technical Data - 2913
- Dia.: 43 mm
- Height: 10 mm
- Weight: 25 g
- Divisions: 360
- North and South markings: a triangle and a disk of radium compound (see also 1931 catalogue)

Click on image for technical data
No. 2923 - 1938 catalogue

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(guide all)

Hunter case no. 2914

Technical data:
see 1931 catalogue

Hunter case with square center design

Click on image for technical data
No. 2930 - 1938 catalogue

Open-face version (early 40's?)

Technical Data - No. 2940
- Dia.: 52 mm
- Height: 13 mm
- Weight: 70 g
- Divisions: 360
- Material: aluminum
- Magnetic needle with N-shaped cut-out on the north side (see also the Girl Scout models below)
(after the Latin words for North lights aurora borealis)

(Picture courtesy arkway2)

No. 2915
Technical data:
see 1931 catalogue
(mere a dial?)

No. 2916

Technical data:
see 1931 catalogue
(use at night)

Picture by courtesy of L. Boigey
(Click for enlarged view)

Technical Data - No. 2918
- Dia.: 43 mm
- Height: 13 mm
- Weight: 43 g
- Divisions: Quadrant.
- Marking on the lid: 'ENG. DEPT. U.S.A. 1917'
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(see by night)

Technical Data - No. 2917
- Dia.: 43 mm
- Height: 13 mm
- Weight: 43 g
- Divisions: 360
- North and South markings: a triangle and a disk of radium compound: Hunter-cased military version of the LITENITE
- Transit lock: standard, autom. when closing the lid.

* Apparently, the name was first created by Steward but written Cbynite.
(G = gold-plated)


Picture by courtesy of Perry

Taylor offered from 1918 on the Usanite, Ceebynite and Aurapole models in a 14 K gold-plated version, and also the Lumenite in the 1930s.

Advertisement for the Ceebynite, on which the radium markings seem to glow in the dark.

Open-face aluminum version. The radium markings were much smaller than on the US Army model.

Square center symbol

Click HERE for technical data (no. 2932, 1938 catalog)

Ad indicating a 24 h /day visibility of the radium markings

After WW2 and until the 1960s, other names were created for either new designs of mixed features of old designs. In the whole, more than 20 different names were coined. Some very successful brands like the LEEDAWL were re-used at a later period for cheap boy and girl scouts compasses in bakelite or plastic cases of different shapes (octogonal or round, see table below).

The second generation of Taylor compasses was made of aluminum and open-faced.
The third generation was made of reddish-brown Bakelite and octogonal shaped.
The fourth and last generation was made of black or green plastic and round (Boy and Girl Scouts models).
The only model that seemingly doesn't fit into this scheme is the Lumenite with the contrasted retro-look of the case external aspect and the dial's geometrically sober art-dco design.

The magnetic needles' shape also varied with the time. On the early ones, the north end was arrow-point shaped and the south end was moon-crescent shaped. This design was followed by a bar needle, either straight or twisted, a lozenge-shaped flat blued-steel one (with a N-shaped cut-out near the cap) and at last the bright red one with either a N-cut-out (see scouts compasses in next table) or with white lines (see pic. at right - click on image for enlarged view).
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Table below : other models or versions

(tell a way)

Brass case - No. 075

Technical data: see 1919 catalogue

Silver case - No. 2905

Some models featured an arrow-shaped needle where the catalogue picture (right) shows a two-points needle.

Technical data: see 1938 catalogue
The Telaway is the only Taylor compass featuring a conventional cylindrical case. It was designed and manufactured before the cooperation with S&M (see the low item no. 75 allocated before the catalogue comprised the S&M models). Surprisingly, the model Showay has the no. 2906.
Pict. below: 1919 and 1938 catalogue:



 Fotos Dennis Honor
Model with a completely new and sober, modern card design contrasting with the antique looking decorated hunter case.

Case side view

(Click HERE for view of advertisement)

Technical Data - No. 2927
- Dia.: ... mm
- Height: ... mm
- Weight: ... g
- Divisions: 360
- North and South markings: a triangle and a disk of radium compound
- Date of manufacture: late 1930s/40s?
Boy Scouts Of America
(c. 1930s)

Hunter case model - No. 2919
(see 1931 catalog).
Marking: Headquarters New York City
Under the fleur de lis: 'Be Prepared'
Boy Scouts version (c. 1940s)

Bakelite case, twisted bar needle
Marking: 'National' Council'
Later models featured a red needle
(see Girl Scouts compass below)
Boy Scouts compasses
Technical Data

Below: box version for Canada:


The 2nd and 3rd generation compasses for boy and girl scouts were first octogonal, then round, made of black or reddish bakelite or plastic for boys but green for girls. The words "Be Prepared" and 'National Council' no longer appear. 


Girl Scout compass box (1960 and 1966)
Girl Scouts Compasses

Technical Data 
Round case - No. 2912

- Dia.: 43 mm
- Hhe: 11 mm
- Weight: 28 g
- Catalogue date: 1966

User instructions: click HERE.

The models GYDEWAY (l.) and SHOWAY (r.)
in a 1961 catalog

(Model at left no.: 2935)

       Gydeway no. 2935 Showay no. 2906
(Pict. courtesy 7century)

Technical Data - No. 2906
- Dimensions: 40 x 40 x 10 mm
- Weight: 20 g
- Divisions: quadrants
- Material: reddish-brown Bakelite

(Pict. courtesy D. Damiano)
Technical Data - Name / no. unknown
- Diam. : 2 in / 50  mm
- Divisions: 360
- Material: plastic

This model existed with and without lid
Cheap compass and display box of 12 for retailors
(see details in enlarged view)
Probably 1980s and 90s

Pict. courtesy J. Fisher
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Comments on the TAYLOR Patents

The patents mentionned on the first series compasses are printed on the dials in an unsual way. Neither the inventor's name nor the patent no. are indicated but only the publication date. It is not easy to find a patent in the register without this information. Two different dates appear on the Taylor compasses: 'PAT. APR. 20 - 1915' and 'PAT. JAN. 8 - 1918'. The inventor's name was James A. HOWE "assignor to TAYLOR Instr. Co."  The corresponding numbers are 1,136,232 (application date March 21, 1914, published about one year later) and 1,253,197 (application date February 1, 1915 published THREE years later!).
These two documents describe exactly the same instrument and feature the same figures (see picture at right, full documents available). Only the claims differ as a thorough comparison clearly shows. The only visible change between the two versions lies in the size, position and shape of some letters in Figure 4 and particularly the pin h4 which plays an important role in the 1918 patent (click HERE for a detailed comparative view of details).

- The four claims in the 1915 patent concern solely the shaping of an external case out a single sheet of metal and the assembling with an internal case (capsule) together with the crystal glass which presses the capsule's lip against the external case rim (Fig. 2, details B, b1, b2). The dial (E) was fixed on the capsule's bottom with the same bushing (D) in which the magnetic needle pivot was stuck.
- The five claims in the 1918 patent concern the transit lock for the magnetic needle (Fig. 4). The screw's longitudinal movement was limited by a tiny pin (h4) inserted between one end of the pendant's loop and the screw's shaft portion with reduced diameter.

It is not possible today to know why the claims in the second patent were not already established in 1914 together with the first patent application and why it lasted three full years for the patent office to acknowledge their novelty. Maybe they were but the U.S. Patent Office first considered that this simple system had already been existing for a long time and could not be patented.

The main text describes the aims and aspects of the manufacturing process, the most important ones being the cost reduction via mass production. The document resembles more a commercial proposal for a potential client (US Army) or a company internal report:
"My invention has for its object to improve and simplify the construction of pocket compasses by affording a structure embodying a minimum of parts, which can be manufactured at comparatively very low cost.
A further purpose (...) is to provide a device that can be so economically manufactured as to permit it to be sold at a reasonably low price, and at the same time one that is characterized by high class workmanship and accurate and reliable results."

A still more astonishing point in a patent application was this information about the cost for procurement with basic material like phonograph needles (!) for the pivots:
"... I have found that (...) the ordinary steel needle such as employed in sound reproducing machines can be successfully used for this purpose, and as these can be purchased in large quantities at a very low cost it reduces considerably the price of the instrument."

In 1934, Taylor filed another patent (inventor: Erich Bandoly, no. 2,027,952) concerning the manufacture of cheap plastic-cased compasses. The material is called herein phenol condensation product.
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