Classroom Tips

George Washington's first career as a surveyor from 1747-1752 was brief but successful, giving him a deep knowledge of the Virginia wilderness and its inhabitants, a small fortune in land, and a reputation for courage and integrity. He would use this knowledge during his time in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War to develop strategies for his troops in battle to defeat their enemies. Washington continued to use his surveyor skills his whole life. He completed at least fifty surveys for his own lands as his farm land grew over the years. The surveys were often for the purpose of purchasing new land for himself, defending his property boundaries, or dividing his land into different farming sections.

One of the most important tools of the trade was a surveyor's compass. The compass had of six components: a cast brass box with silvered face and glass cover; a dial ring; a base plate; two sight bars; a staff adapter. Within the box, the silvered face is engraved with a compass rose marking the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) and quarter directions. When mounted on a staff, the compass enabled the user to establish a line from a known reference point to the point of interest and determine its bearing. 

Classroom Materials downloads are ZIP files that include, when available: document images (JPEGs), document transcripts (PDF as well as Word and/or Excel files), and ready to use classroom resources (activities, discussion prompts, lesson plans, etc.). These materials are available for educational uses only. If you would like to reproduce them in any other medium, please contact Dawn Bonner, Manager of Visual Resources.


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