Gurley Precision Instruments, Inc.

Documenting Change: Industry and Business in Troy and Rensselaer County, NY

Historical Note: Gurley Precision Instruments traces its origin to the partnership founded in 1845 by William Gurley and Jonas Phelps. William Gurley’s brother Lewis joined the firm in 1851. The Gurley brothers bought out Phelps in 1852, and the firm became W. & L.E. Gurley. The business remained under family control until 1968, when it became part of the high-tech corporation Teledyne and the name was changed to Teledyne Gurley. In the early 1990s Teledyne sold the company, and it became Gurley Precision Instruments. The firm originally manufactured surveying, hydrological, meteorological, and other technical instruments. More recently it has manufactured electro-optical encoders used in space vehicles, aircraft mapping cameras, navigation systems, and other applications.

Note: Records of Gurley Precision Instruments, Inc. are held by the New York State Museum and by the company itself. These collections are described separately.

A. – Records at NYSM

Records, 1854-1970 (inclusive), 1860-1920 (bulk)

Extent: ca. 300 cu. ft.

Scope and Content: Approximately 270 cubic feet of Gurley records were donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1970. In 1995 these records were given to the New York State Museum, along with a collection of instruments manufactured by the company. An addendum of records was transferred from the company to the New York State Museum, and the result is that the bulk of the company’s records before 1970 are at the Museum. A small group of records remains at Gurley Precision Instruments, Inc.

Long runs of cash books, day books, cost books, order books, sales books, general ledgers, time books, and inventories, chiefly covering the years from 1860 to 1920. The collection also includes serial number books, 1908-1970, containing information on major instruments purchased by Gurley customers. Employees’ ledgers, 1853-1870 include payroll accounts. Also includes corporation minutes, 1900-1965; stockholders reports, 1920-1947, photographs of employees, factory views, and instruments. There is also a complete run (1855-1951) of the firm’s catalogue, “Manual of the Principal Instruments Used in American Engineering and Surveying, Manufactured by W. & L.E. Gurley, Troy, N.Y.”

The Gurley records also include records of other companies in which the firm had interest and of charitable organizations in which the Gurley family was involved. These include the Charles E. Wilder Thermometer Company of Peterboro, N.H., the Owens Grocery Co. (located in the Gurley building), the Troy & Bennington Railroad, the Rensselaer Agricultural Society, the Troy Orphan Asylum, and the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in Troy.

Location: New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230.

B. – Records at Gurley Precision Instruments

Records, ca. 1862-1980.

Scope and Content: Serial number cards (1924-1968), serial number books for Gurley levels (1899-1910), patent papers, architectural drawings for the firm’s Fulton Street building, shop drawings for Gurley products, promotional publications.

Location: Gurley Precision Instruments, Inc., 514 Fulton St., Troy, NY 12180. For access, contact the company.