Union Rotary Piston Water Meter

The Union Water Meter Company was established in 1868, by Phinehas Ball, a hydraulic engineer who had worked on the design and construction of the Worcester Water Works, and a local mechanic named Benejah Fitts. Its initial aim was manufacturing the reciprocating meters designed by Ball and Fitts. The firm was reorganized in 1875, prospered for many years, and folded in the mid-1930s.
After bringing his first meter to market, Fitts began working on a meter with a set of pistons that rotated into and out of the stream of water. Judges at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association fair of 1874 noted that the rotary-piston form had been in operation for about two years and, being less expensive than the reciprocating-piston, as well as simpler in construction and less liable to get out of order, was "fast taking the lead in the market." Of the six rotary-piston meters on display, Union’s example was deemed the best and was awarded a silver medal. Union showed both forms at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and must have been pleased when the judges found that both had "great merit" and "gave very satisfactory results under pressures varying from five to eighty pounds." By 1890, Union had made and sold some 31,000 meters. Most were of the rotary form, and most were used on hydraulic elevators and locomotive stand pipes.
This is a rotary-piston meter made by the Union Water Meter Company in Worcester, Massachusetts. It fits a ⅝” pipe, carries serial number 155,010, and probably dates from around 1920.
Ref: Union Water Meter Company, Price List No. 52 (Worcester, 1922), p. 15.
Object Name
water meter
date made
ca 1920
Union Water Meter Company
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Worcester
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Water Meters
Measuring & Mapping
Natural Resources
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Water Meters
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
A.A. Hirsch

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.