In 1850, physicist Edward S. Ritchie began developing the first US manufactured marine compass using his revolutionary liquid-filled design. Beginning with an order of 26 compasses by the US Navy in 1861, and entirely through word-of-mouth, E.S. Ritchie & Company had sold over 30,000 to merchant vessels by the year 1900. (A model of Edward’s first liquid-filled compass remains on display at the Museum of Science in London, the only foreign product so honored.)

An early and sustained focus on research and development.

After receiving numerous awards at US and world expositions, E.S. Ritchie continued its unrelenting innovation throughout the 20th century. Technologies developed during World War II — including spherical bowls, internal gimbals and lightweight aluminum dials — made Ritchie compasses more stable and accurate. The company was purchased in 1951 by the Marine Compass Company founded by Louis A. Sherman, which focused on producing smaller instruments for commercial and fishing vessels as well as the emerging yachting markets.

Extending our innovation to serve evolving markets.

In the 1960s, acrylic domes and high-strength plastics replaced glass domes and metal castings to make them stronger and lighter. Since the 1990s, Ritchie Navigation has developed a wealth of products for additional applications including on-road and off-road vehicles, sea kayaks, small dinghies, day sailors and camouflaged options for outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Owned and privately held by the Sherman family to this day, our company continues to be the marine industry leader for the manufacturing of recreational and commercial magnetic compasses.


The first U.S. manufactured marine compass.

Physicist Edward S. Ritchie began developing the first U.S. manufactured marine compass.


The First ever liquid filled compass

The US Naval Observatory put out a call for American Manufactured navigational instruments and called on Ritchie for help. June 1861, Ritchie completed and sent samples of his work – including the first ever liquid filled compass.

Selling to the US Navy

Ritchie received an order from the US Navy for 26 compasses, 10 of which were liquid filled Ritchie began selling compasses under the name E.S. Ritchie & Co.


E.S. Ritchie & Sons.

The company name was changed to E.S. Ritchie & Sons.


Over 30,000 compasses sold

By this year, Ritchie had sold over 30,000 compasses to merchant vessels based upon the performance of his instruments and without the benefit of ever advertising.

E.S. Ritchie continued to grow and constantly modify the liquid filled compass. The philosophy of continuing development and improvement earned Ritchie many awards and medals including the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and a number of world expositions. A model of Ritchie’s first liquid filled compass is on display today in the Museum of Science in London, England; the only foreign product so honored.


The Marine Compass Company was founded

Louis A. Sherman founded the Marine Compass Company and concentrated on producing smaller instruments for commercial and fishing vessels as well as the emerging yachting markets.
1951 Marine Compass Company purchased E.S. Ritchie & Sons.

The two companies consolidated all operations under the name E.S. Ritchie and Sons and is still owned by the Sherman Family. The company is currently owned by Paul Sherman, grandson of Louis A. Sherman.


Compass development

Ritchie capitalized on technology that was developed during World War II. Spherical bowls, internal gimbals, jeweled pivot systems and lightweight aluminum dials were all developed to make the compasses more stable and accurate.


Acrylic domes

Acrylic domes were developed to replace glass, and high-strength plastics replaced metal castings. These new materials helped to create compasses that were stronger and lighter.


Longevity of the compasses

Ritchie continued to increase the performance and longevity of its compasses.


New Products and New Designs

Ritchie has developed many products for expanding markets. They include the RitchieSport® Compasses for “on and off-road” vehicles. The Kayaker compasses are for the sea kayak markets; the Tactician compass for the small dinghy; and day sailors and the Trek™ series, which features Mossy Oak® Breakup™ and Shadowgrass™ camouflage coloration for the outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Research and design changes continue to be an ongoing process at Ritchie. Each compass undergoes a rigid evaluation of materials and performance as a part of a continuous product improvement program