Nautical Instruments & Tools
Navigator's Parallel Rule by Bliss of New York
John Bliss (1795-1857) was born in Norwich Connecticut, trained as a silversmith and clock maker in Vermont, and began in business as a jeweller in New York around 1830. In 1834, now trading as Bliss & Creighton, he made and marketed a range of nautical instruments. The business subsequently became John Bliss & Son in 1855 and John Bliss & Co. in 1857. It remained in business until 1957 when it was acquired by West Marine.
Our parallel rules are clearly marked 'Bliss New York' and 'Nautical Instruments' so no doubts on their origin. It appears from our limited research Bliss used to make a range of instruments supplied to a variety of customers including the US Navy. Our parallel rule is a substantial size measuring 24.25" x 3.25" in the closed position (61.2 cm x 8.1 cm) and manufactured from brass with a silvered finish and with solid brass fittings. They are very solidly built weighing in at 0.8 Kilos or 1.6 Lbs. We are advised these probably date from the late 19th or early 20th century. They are in good used condition with just some minor wear to the silvering, as to be expected from an instrument that has been worked hard at sea over many years; the reverse side is again in good shape with just age related staining. Sadly we have no provenance with the instrument other than it was obtained from a source in Falmouth, Cornwall, South West England, the first major port of call after crossing the Atlantic. Instruments by this maker turn up very infrequently (this side of the pond at least). The last set we saw sold here was on E bay this spring and made £175.00. Ours represent rather better value!