American Levels and Their Makers

John W. Harmon Sighting Level (Artificers' Level)

Harmon's sighting levels were the subject of three patents - November 23, 1880, January 23, 1883 and July 17, 1883. This level is marked only with the 1880 patent date but most closely resembles the tool patented in January 1883. There are no lenses in this level, merely a peep hole on one end and cross hairs across the flaring end. The level could be mounted on a tripod or on a plane table or similar platform. It was envisioned as an inexpensive tool for laying out foundations and similar duties. Only a few examples exist with the circular base shown here which represents the January 1883 patent. Most known examples have only the top portion that was the subject of the 1880 patent.

During the 1880s, levels of this type were typically coated with black japanning and decorated with gold trim and red or red and blue designs. The pictured level is a prime example of attempts to improve appeal by adding such "Victorian" decoration.

Harmon was among the most enduring of the early level makers. His working period as a level maker lasted from 1868 until 1907. Level makers of that time typically only operated for 10 years of less (usually much less). Other exceptions were the Pools, Chapins, and Stanley Rule & Level.

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