A Brief History 


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

August 1861

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.


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


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.


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.


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

1970s and 1980s

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

1990s to present

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