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3.36  18th C.  SEXTANT BY THE INVENTOR.  Most rare, early English sextant by the famed maker Edward Troughton as beautifully engraved on the large arc, “Troughton, London.”  This exceptional relic is marked with the serial number “397” on the vertical strut.  Official records indicate it dates 1799!  This massive instrument is of the classic design known as the “double” or “pillar frame” invented by Edward Troughton in 1785, patented in 1788.  Its large arc is inlaid with a GOLD scale calibrated from - 4 degrees to 140 degrees in 10 minute increments marked in 5 degree intervals.  The smaller GOLD vernier scale reads from 0 to 10 calibrated in 10 arc seconds.  To aid in the reading it is overlaid by Troughton’s distinctive circular magnifier mounted on the index arm just above the vernier.  In theory at least, is would have an accuracy of about 2 tenths of a nautical mile.  The braced index arm has a knurled brass “stop” and a horizontal tangent screw knob for fine adjustment.  The top of the arm has the index mirror.  On the right is the knurled adjustable height telescope holder and on the left is the split image horizon mirror.  This instrument is complete with all four colored glass index filters and all 3 colored horizon filters.  Troughton’s ingenious device employs the principle of truss bridge construction first used in the 1700’s.  It made for a strong, lightweight, rigid frame.  It overcame the problem of inaccurate readings due to warping experienced by other instrument makers of the time.  To accomplish this Troughton riveted 2 sheet brass frames together with 20 posts or “pillars” which kept the two sides aligned and as light as possible.  The obvious complexity made such instruments expensive to produce.  As such they were only available to prominent ship owners, captains and senior naval officers.  For taking a sighting a sculpted lignum vitae handle was fitted to the back.  It also has 3 brass “feet” for mounting in its case.  The large, classic “keystone” box is an absolute thing of beauty.  It is solid rosewood!  We have never seen anything like it before in our 40+ years.  It contains both brass telescopes, a screw-on sun filter and an adjusting knob.  It retains the original skeleton key lock and both hook and eye closures.  Indicative of its early age, the box is constructed with fine hand dovetailing.  The lid bears the early trade label of “J. SOMALVICO & CO. Opticians, No. 2 Hatton Garden, Two Doors from Holborn Hill, LONDON.”  Overall condition is “excellent.”  The front of the instrument is bright brass, the reverse is in its original blackened finish.  The lower right corner of the box has a nice old repair.  All glass and mirrors are clear with no cracks or chips.  The solid gold scales are crisp and bright, with no wear.  The box measures 12 ¼ tall by 15 ¼ inches wide and is 5 inches thick.  The instrument measures 12 inches tall and is 13 inches wide.  This represented the highest quality sextant available at the time and would certainly have been cherished by its wealthy owner.  Price Request

Indicative of the importance of such a rare instrument, the premier 20th century nautical antique auction  Richard Bourne & Co., Hyannis, Massachusetts, chose such a sextant for their catalog cover February 27, 1990.

J. SOMALVICO & Son were listed at Hatton Garden, Holborn, London from 1820-1840.  (Edwin Banfield, “Barometer  Makers And Retailers, 1660 – 1900,” 1991, Baros Books, Trowbridge , Wilshire, England).

box perspective

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4.25   SCRIMSHAW REFERENCE BOOK.  Stuart M. Frank, PhD. “Ingenious Contrivances Curiously Carved,” 2012, David R. Godine, Jaffrey, New Hampshire.  Hard cloth cover with dust jacket.  375 pages exclusive of index including 2 Appendices listing the roster of known scrimshaw artists and a guide to the scrimshaw currently held in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  Profusely illustrated in color by expert photographer Richard Donnelly.  Forward by the noted scrimshaw pioneer E. Norman Flayderman, the author who first composed a comprehensive illustrated publication on the subject of scrimshaw in the early 1970’s.   In a word, this book is “fabulous.”  Authored by the world’s foremost expert on scrimshaw and the Curator Emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, it represents the epitome of books on the subject of scrimshaw.  To be sure it is first and foremost a stunning catalog raisonné which documents in full color the contents of the world’s largest and most comprehensive museum about whaling.  Located in new England, its focus on America’s Yankee whaling in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.  13 chapters deal with topics including “Yankee Scrimshaw Pioneers, The Golden Age, The Whalemen’s Prowess, Tools and Methods, Canes, Sticks and Rods, Baskets Boxes and Bins, Swifts, and Eskimo Scrimshaw” to name a few.  Mint, unread condition.  The original published price was $65 12 years ago,  Now mint, with author’s signature.  79

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5.38/13.14   EARLY NAVY DECK CLOCK.  Most impressive pre-war U.S. Navy clock made by the renowned American clock maker Seth Thomas as marked on the bottom of the dial “MADE BY SETH THOMAS IN U.S.A.”  This massive clock has a blackened brass dial with Arabic numerals, a minute chapter and luminescent spade hands.  The subsidiary seconds bit is below the 12, calibrated in single seconds marked by 10’s.   The signature reads “MARK I DECK CLOCK, U.S. NAVY, BU.NAV. (N) 2191, 1940.”  This indicates it was made at least a year and a half prior to America’s entry into World War II at the end of December 1941!  The high quality movement met the very demanding specifications of the government at that time.  It consists of an all brass, 11 jewel movement with compensated lever escapement which functions regardless of temperature and atmospheric conditions.  The backplate of the movement is stamped “MADE IN (<ST>) U.S.A.” with the model number “5180.”  Undoubtedly, this is one of the finest quality mechanical clocks ever made, at a time when the fate of America was on the line!  The 5 ¾ inch dial is encompassed by its silvered reflector ring set in the nickeled brass bezel with convex crystal.  The flared bezel is classic.  It is solid brass in a nickel finish, hinged on the left, opening on the right with a pivoting wing nut.  The amazing over-built brass case measures 8 ¼ inches on the mounting flange and 7 ¼ inches in diameter on the bezel.  The opening to the face is 5 5/8 inches.  The entire unit weighs an astounding 10+ pounds!   Overall condition is excellent.  There is some expected age spotting to the finish, mainly on the bezel flange.  But this is entirely consistent with its age and actual use in a combat environment.  The clock is an excellent timekeeper.  Complete with period brass winding key.  895

In his landmark reference book, Marvin Whitney, “Military Timepieces,” 1992, American Watchmaker’s Institute, states on page 429 that Seth Thomas boat and deck clocks (Mark I) were constructed in accordance with U.S. Navy Department specifications of 1938.  They consisted of an 8-day movement housed in a metal case which was dust-proof and moisture-proof.  It was equipped with a cushioned bulkhead mounting plate with a lusterless black 12-hour dial with luminous hand and dots over the numerals.  Each had an eccentric second hand.  The clocks were designed to be wound and set and regulated through a dust cover on back of the case.  The model number was stamped on the backplate.  In this case it is No. 5180.

perspective dial

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7.62  BILL OF SALE.  The “Brig SILAS V. MARTIN of Castine, Maine.”  This pre-printed bill of sale features a spread winged American eagle perched atop a Union shield with classic olive branches and arrows.   The ship is described as having 2 masts, one deck, square stern and a billet head.  The master is R. B. Brown.  The document is filled out in a lovely cursive hand indicating the ownership of 1/32 part for $400 and is dated May 5, 1876.  Four pages total with much information affixed with a small green seal.  14 inches tall by 17 inches wide overall.  Folded in half then again in quarters.  Outstanding original condition with no tears, spotting or losses.  An amazing original ship’s document nearly 150 years old!  69

bill of sale

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4.41  SCRIMSHAW CRIBBAGE BOARD.  Exceptional early 1900’s carved and inlaid cribbage board fashioned from the large tusk of a bull walrus.  This superb example of early Alaskan Eskimo trade output far surpasses the quality of most of its genre which were simply decorated with incised pictographs.  This cribbage board is actually carved in relief, and then, if that were not enough, it is inlaid with baleen separators throughout its length!  The charming vignettes depict a fox chasing an arctic hare on the left and a stately reindeer on the right.  In the center is the cribbage board with 6 successive rows of holes for the pegs used in that game.  The rows are meticulously inlaid with insets of whale baleen.  The base of the tusk was drilled to house pegs.  It rests on two sculpted feet composed of pinned and pegged whale tooth ivory.  The tusk measures 18 inches long by 2 5/8ths inches wide at the widest.  Excellent untouched original condition showing 100 years of age.    REQUEST PRICE

Not available or for sale in California.  Shipped from Massachusetts.




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12.19 P.O.W. SNUFF BOX. Absolutely charming late 18th or very early 19th century carved bone folk art snuff box depicting a handsome gentleman suitor courting a lovely maiden. This intricately constructed box is indicative of the incredible output of French prisoners in British prisons during the Napoleonic War era. It consists of an inner core of solid wood that has been hollowed out. Overlaying the wood is sheathing consisting of bovine bone attached with tiny brass pins. The box opens with fine hand-made brass hinges and is equipped with a tiny friction latch which allows it to close with a positive fit, assuring preservation of its precious contents. The front of the box is engraved with the initials "CT DW." It is both relief carved AND engraved with floral motifs and a "brick" pattern. It measures 3 1/2 inches long by 2 1/4 inches wide and 1 1/4 inches thick. This snuff box is in an incredible state of original preservation with no damage or repairs whatsoever. A superbly rare example of 200 year old P.O.W. work with a delightfully endearing subject! Price Request



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AUTHENTIC LIGHTHOUSE. This is the ultimate! Here is an exceptional opportunity to own a very historic relic of America’s rich maritime heritage embodied in the original lamp room from the famous Ballast Point Lighthouse, which served its sentinel duties in the channel of San Diego Bay from 1890 until 1960. This incredibly well-preserved piece of history was built according to specifications laid out by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1885. A copy of the original specifications are included as are much printed references and photographs. Erected in 1890, the 5th Order lighthouse was a significant aid to navigation in conjunction with the Point Loma Lighthouse (1850) poised at the entrance to San Diego Bay. Ballast Point Light was situated further inside the massive bay on a point which jutted into the seaway which posed a hazard to shipping. 13 feet 10 inches high with a maximum width of 8 feet 8 inches. Weight approximately 5 tons. It will require a crane and a flat bed truck for transport. 129 years old! Price Request Special Packaging

Serious inquiries only please. No telephone quotes. This item has been nominated as a candidate for the National Historic Register, and is currently being considered by a number of museums, private lighthouse restoration groups and the U.S. Navy. Clear title is guaranteed. Please provide your qualifications for ownership and your intentions for use. We reserve the right to select a deserving owner. We have already soundly rejected a low ball offer of $25,000 – that being the original price of the lamp room in 1890! A single 5th Order light house lens recently sold for $125,000. This is the entire lamp room, much rarer, and probably the only one of its kind to ever be for sale again.


On October 2, 1888, recognizing the need for a harbor light in the increasingly congested channel of San Diego Bay, Congress authorized $25,000 for the construction of a lighthouse to be built on Ballast Point. Fashioned in the late Victorian style, the entire structure took 3 months to build beginning in March 1890. The light was first lit on August 1st. It was a sister of the lights at San Luis Obispo and Table Bluff, south of Humboldt Bay. All were wood framed structures with attached living quarters. The ironwork for the lantern was forged in San Francisco and carried south to San Diego by ship. The French firm of Sautter, Lemmonier, & Cie. manufactured the Freznel lens for the Ballast Point Light in 1886. The fixed 5th Order lens was visible for a distance of at least 11 miles.

When California was still part of Mexico the peninsula jutting into San Diego Bay was known as Punta del los Guijarros or “Pebble Point.” For centuries cobblestones washed down by the San Diego River had been deposited on the point. When California gained statehood in 1850 the point was renamed Middle Ground Shoal. As time went on and merchant traffic in the harbor increased, many sailing ships found it convenient to load or discharge the stones as ballast. The practice continued and eventually the name “Ballast Point” stuck.

Accompanying the Ballast Point lighthouse was a huge 2,000 pound fog bell in a wooden tower. In 1928 it was supplanted by a single tone electric diaphone horn.

The first keeper of the light was John M. Nilsson, assigned duty on July 15, 1890. The second was Henry Hall, who took the job on December 1, 1892. Perhaps the most famous keeper was Irish born David R. Splaine, a Civil War veteran and veteran lighthouse keeper, who assumed the post in 1894, having served at Point Conception, the Farallons and San Diego’s own Point Loma light from 1886-1889.

In 1913 the original old kerosene lamp was replaced with an acetylene burner. Acetylene gave way to electricity in 1928. In 1938 a filter was fitted inside the 5th Order Freznel lens giving the light a distinctive green hue for recognition. One of the last keepers of the light was Radford Franke who recalled receiving the order to “douse the light” upon the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

By early 1960 the light was deemed to be of no further service, so in June of that year the lantern room was removed to a salvage yard. The wooden tower and its brick and mortar foundation remained a couple of years later until they too were declared structurally unsafe and demolished. The bell tower continued to survive, mounted with a 375 mm high intensity lamp on its roof. However the value of maintaining any light on Ballast Point diminished with the installation of harbor entrance range lights. In the late 1960’s the bell and its tower were dismantled. The tower found its way to a private residence in Lakeside, California. The bell had a more circuitous later life. It was purchased from a San Diego area junk yard in 1969 for its scrap value of 5 cents per pound! The one ton bell remained on local private property until 1991, when it was put on loan to the San Diego Maritime Museum. In 1999 the bell was transported to the son of the original buyer, living in Colorado. Then in 2002, the bell finally found its way to the home of the owner’s granddaughter living in Vermont, where it rests to this day.

The story of the lantern’s later life is even more fascinating. The nation was just recovering from the Cuban Missile Crisis between JFK and Khrushchev, when in 1964 the Cuban government cut off the fresh water supply to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay. By that time, an experimental desalinization plant had been in operation at Point Loma for 2 years. The Navy hastily ordered it to be disassembled and shipped through the Panama Canal to Cuba. A gentleman working as a crane operator during the process noted the shabby lantern room in a trash heap nearby. He inquired as to the fate of the relic and was told it was salvage. Asking if he could purchase it, the yard foreman told him he could “have it” if he would haul it away. With that, for the next 34 years the lantern room served as a gazebo in the backyard of the man’s residence in Bonita, California. It was purchased by the present owners in 1998, fully refurbished, and then placed on public display ever since. Now it is time for it to find its next new home. According to the crane operator who delivered the lamp room it weighs approximately 5 tons. It will require a crane and a flat bed truck for removal.


F. Ross Holland, “The Old Point Loma Lighthouse,” 1978, Cabrillo Historical Association, San Diego, California

Jim Gibbs, “The Twilight of Lighthouses,” 1996, Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA.

Kin Fahlen and Karen Scanlon, “Lighthouse of San Diego,” 2008, Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco

Kraig Anderson, “Forgotten Ballast Point “Lighthouse” Seeks New Home,” article in “Lighthouse Digest,” East Machias, Maine, September – October 2011, Vol. XX, no. 5 pages 34 – 37.

“Mains’l Haul,” a periodic publication of the San Diego Maritime Association, Summer 1990, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, pp. 11-12.






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