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Borden Base Line and MALSCE

About the Borden Base Line and Simeon Borden's Field Notes 

courtesy of MALSCE


When completed in 1831, the Borden Base Line of over 39,000 feet was and remains today an outstanding achievement in precision measurements made possible through the care and inventiveness of the American civil engineer, Simeon Borden. Through this work, American skill in geodetic engineering attained international acclaim.
The line running from a point in Hatfield, Hampshire County, to a point in South Deerfield, Franklin County, was the first such project undertaken by any state in this country. It was also unusual in that the measurement of this base line provided a much greater accuracy in surveying large areas than previous similar projects.  This was due to the use of trigonometrical principles for surveying large areas, instead of astronomical observation alone.
A measuring device invented by a skilled mechanic and civil engineer of the day, Simeon Borden, made this possible.  It consisted of two rods, one of steel, the other of brass, each 50 feet in length. The use of two rods enabled Borden to compensate for thermal expansion of the metal rods so that distances measured by the device would remain constant at all temperatures.
Borden developed his device from scratch, without any guides to its construction.  Yet the instrument was, at the time, the most accurate of its kind in the United States.
Borden was engaged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to construct the instrument after the state legislature passed a law in 1830 that required Boston and other towns in the state to make accurate maps by trigonometrical survey.  
(from the May 10, 1983 Dedication Program of the Borden Baseline as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, held at the Tilton Library, South Deerfield, MA on May 10, 1983, sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Branch of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section/ASCE and the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers (MALSCE).  

Simeon Borden led the triangulation of the entire state from 1834-1841 as Superintendent of the Survey. He described this first geodetic survey in America in the ninth volume of the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society.


Most, if not all, of the original field notes from Borden's trigonometric survey of Massachusetts are in the possession of the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers, Inc., One Walnut Street, Boston, MA.


MALSCE Links to available materials:

Borden Survey and First Massachusetts Map - A Record of Documents Relating to the State Survey 

MALSCE 1983 documents on 1983 Borden Baseline landmark dedication in South Deerfield 

Simeon Borden Field Books Index - materials owned by MALSCE


Wikipedia:  Borden Base Line

Wikipedia:  Simeon Borden 



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