American Amsler Polar Planimeter

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This nickel-plated instrument forms a U and is hinged around a brass measuring wheel and vernier. A cylindrical weight fits over a peg at the end of the pole arm. The plating has worn away from the handle for the tracer point. The tracer arm is stamped with a serial number: 5457. An oblong wooden case covered with black leather is lined with dark blue velvet. The top of the case is marked: AMERICAN (/) AMSLER POLAR PLANIMETER. A torn red and white sticker on the bottom of the case originally read: UNIVERSITY OF (/) CINCINNATI (/) 33894. Compare to 1981.0301.02 and 1981.0301.04; the serial number suggests this object is the youngest of the three instruments.
The American Steam Gauge Company, a Boston firm, was founded in 1851, incorporated in 1854, and re-incorporated around 1902 with the name American Steam Gauge & Valve Manufacturing Company. According to the company catalog, James W. See, an Ohio engineer, designed the first Amsler-style planimeter in the United States, and by 1879 American Steam Gauge began manufacturing it as the American Amsler's Polar Planimeter. In 1896, it sold with the case for $15.00. In 1923 American Steam Gauge, the Hohmann-Nelson Company, and the American division of the Schäffer & Budenberg Manufacturing Company merged to form American Schaeffer & Budenberg Corporation.
References: "People: American Steam Gauge Company," Waywiser, Harvard University Department of the History of Science,; American Steam Gauge Company, catalog (Boston, 1896), 130–135; Thomas Pray, Jr., Twenty Years with the Indicator: Being a Practical Text-book for the Engineer or the Student (Boston: American Steam Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co., 1909), 286.
Currently not on view
date made
after 1923
American Steam Gauge & Valve Mfg. Co.
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
nickel (overall material)
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
leather (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
case: 3.5 cm x 17 cm x 5.5 cm; 1 3/8 in x 6 11/16 in x 2 5/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of University of Cincinnati Department of Mechanical Engineering
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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