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We've used these examples of electrical and scientific instrumentation of the late 19th century as an inspiration for our own work. Such equipment was typically constructed of brass, framed glass, and wood. Instrument bases were usually a dark hardwood. Panels and small working parts were brass. Delicate instruments were enclosed in brass-framed glass. Indicator lamps of the period were usually full-sized lamp bulbs.

A few examples of this style, from the collection of the University of Nebraska:

Astatic galvanometer

Reflecting astatic galvanometer, of a style introduced in 1863.

Note the wooden base, and brass-framed glass. This is a delicate research instrument, requiring careful leveling and adjustment.

Another astatic mirror galvanometer, this one from 1885, manufactured in Troy, New York. A beautiful piece of brass work.

Current meter, Westinghouse

This device was probably installed in an operating power station, and is thus built for continuous use without adjustment. While cruder and far less sensitive than the devices above, this meter was probably in active use for years.

A "microphone hummer", or frequency standard, using a tuning fork.

The black top of the case is probably polished slate. Before plastics, the available insulating materials were quite limited. Early electrical equipment, especially high-powered switchboards where switches might arc, used slate panels where a nonflammable insulator was needed.



December 31, 2015