Price Subsurface Direction Meter

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William Gunn Price designed a water current meter in 1882, obtained a patent, and asked W. & L. E. Gurley, a large instrument firm in Troy, N.Y., to undertake commercial production. Price also designed an instrument that determined the direction the water flowed, but not its speed. This is an example of that instrument. It is 33 inches long and may date from the late 1880s. It has a four-blade rudder that is counterbalanced by a heavy iron ball (5-inch diameter; 7-inch including flanges); inside the ball there is a magnetic compass marked, on its face, “W. & L. E. Gurley, Troy, N.Y.” The “U.S.C. & G.S. No. 13” inscription indicates that this example was used by U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The National Bureau of Standards, the organization that calibrated current meters for federal agencies and engineers in private practice, transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1959.
Ref: Arthur H. Frazier, William Gunn Price and the Price Current Meters (Washington, D.C., 1967).
Arthur H. Frazier, Water Current Meters in the Smithsonian Collections of the National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, D.C., 1974), p. 81.
Currently not on view
overall: 33 in; x 83.82 cm
overall: 6 in x 34 3/4 in x 8 in; 15.24 cm x 88.265 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
National Bureau of Standards
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Water Currents
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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