Thompson Ebony Sextant
This 19th-century sextant, with a robust, Herculean appearance, was a sophisticated and useful tool in history. This object is made of ebony with inlaid natural material and brass. It includes a name plate reading Thompson - London, which is likely the factory the sextant was made in. The curve on the front of the object features a delicate and meticulously measured numbering system to register accurate quantifications. A sextant is designed to precisely measure the angle between two points. Primarily a tool for navigation, it is most commonly used to measure the angle between a planetary object and the horizon, or to measure the altitude of an astronomical object. Double reflecting lenses are used to accomplish this task (one of which is missing from the current piece). The sextant got its name because its arc encompasses 60°, or one sixth of a circle. However, due to the optical attributes of the reflecting system, sextants can measure up to 120°, or a third of a circle. This historic instrument is still in use today. Presently, large boats are all required to carry sextants, and it is mandatory for navigators to understand their usage.
At this time in England, a ship named the SS Savannah arrived in Liverpool in June, 1819, having departed from Savannah, Georgia a month earlier. This successful journey meant that the ship became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. No other American-owned steamship would cross the Atlantic for almost 30 years after this pioneering voyage.