Pilots Compass, WWI
This artifact resides in our Private Collection, yet we welcome inquiries from restorers, museums, or serious enthusiasts. Please email us with the name of the artifact at Curator@AeroAntique.com.
Here is an authentic WWI aeronautical compass with a very curious history.
On the label affixed to the compass housing appears:
"A.S.S.C US ARMY R.A.F. Pilots Compass.... EUGENE M. SHERMAN SEATTLE WASH USA".
A.S.S.C. was the Aviation Section Signal Corps, which was the aerial warfare service of the US Army from 1914-1918. R.A.F. was likely the Royal Aircraft Factory (aka Royal Aircraft Establishment, but not the Royal Air Force since it didn't come into existence until 1918). R.A.F. was a British aeroplane maker which manufactured 3 aircraft used during WWI by the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.): B.E.2 Reconnaissance aircraft, F.E.2 Fighter/Bomber, and the better known S.E.5 Fighter. The Eugene M. Sherman Company of Seattle designed and manufactured nautical navigational aides, notably the line of Dirigo gimballed compasses.
Our theory is that the Eugene Sherman Company was contracted to design and manufacture pilots compasses for use in the WWI R.A.F.-made aircraft for use by the AEF. We have been unable to prove this theory, but it appears plausible.
Regardless, this is a very interesting artifact given its label and its age. The markings on the compass card have long since faded and the compass fluid is no longer contained as the seals are no longer present. The compass card is still in place and rotates to north as the body is rotated. The glass is intact. The purpose of the upright bracket is unknown.
Measures ~6 inches diameter and ~3 inches tall.