George Jacob Heisely

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George J. Heisely, Harrisburg

(compass in private collection of Josh Kale)

Author:  Josh Kale

George Jacob Heisely, a son of Frederick Heisely, is listed as a mathematical instrument maker, NW corner Second and Walnut Streets, in the 1845 Harrisburg Directory.  He was married to Anna Maria Kurtz (1792-1863) and had a daughter, Louisa Carolina Heisely (1817-1903).  George worked with his father from 1811 until his father retired.1  It is noted "while the elder Heisely's compasses had an ornate rose...his sons adopted a much simpler design:  a star or fleur-de-lis at north, and letters indicating the cardinal and ordinal points."2  However, a plain compass made by George exists with an ornate face very similar to his father's work.  The compass is signed George J. Heisely, Harrisburg and is presumed to be made early in his career.3

George Jacob Heisely had a very interesting military history.  He served in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War in 1863.  George is credited with suggesting singing a Francis Scott Key poem to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven."  This song later became our National Anthem.4  George also volunteered and served in the Pennsylvania State Militia for a short time during the Civil War.  His troop consisted of seventeen veterans of the War of 1812 and ranged in ages form 68 to 76 complete with an old tattered flag.  They volunteered directly to the Governor on the condition they could be outfitted with the old flint-lock muskets they used in their youth.  The Governor gladly accepted their service.5


1  Smart, Charles The Makers of Surveying Instruments in America Since 1700, Vol. II, p. 208, Troy, NY: Regal Art Press, 1967

2  Bedini, Silvio A. With Compass and Chain, p. 402, Frederick, MD: Professional Surveying Publishing Co., Inc., 2001

3  Compass is in the collection of Josh Kale

4  Bedini, Silvio A. With Compass and Chain, pp. 401-402, Frederick, MD: Professional Surveying Publishing Co., Inc., 2001

History and Rosters of the 53rd Pennsylvania Emergency and State Militia Troops of 1863, Samuel Penniman Bates





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