The collection
Steel protractor composed of rectangular ruler with one end set in an open circle that rotates within a partial square shape.


Designed by
Alton J. Shaw (1858–1895)
Stainless steel
Produced by
Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co., Providence, Rhode Island
15.3 x 26 cm

The Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design, gift of S. Bernard Paré, 2012.14

This design combines a perforated square, with one cut-out corner, surrounding a perforated circle with a long, narrow rectangle for use as a straight edge and positioning guide. It is formed of a flat semicircle marked with degrees along the curved edge to measure angles.

Advocates of modernism found beauty in such geometric forms. Alfred Barr wrote, “The beauty of machine art is in part the abstract beauty of ‘straight lines and circles’ made into actual tangible ‘surfaces and solids’ by means of tools, ‘lathes and rulers and squares.”

The Stewart Program for Modern Design, photo: Denis Farley.