Bailey Water Current Meter

This is a direct-reading instrument with a vertical axis and a five-bucket rotor that was said to be particularly suited for use in “the rough torrents, filled with drift of all sorts” found in Western waters. Known variously as a Bailey or a Colorado meter, it was designed in the late 1880s by Howard Safford Bailey, a draughtsman who worked for the Western Mathematical Instrument Co. in Denver. It resembles the form developed in the early 1880s by Edwin Nettleton, the State Engineer of Colorado.
The U.S. Irrigation Survey, a project of the U.S. Geological Survey, used several meters of this sort. The Geological Survey transferred this example to the Smithsonian in 1908. The frame is nickel-plated.
Ref: J. W. Powell, “Irrigation Survey—Second Annual Report,” in Report of the Secretary of the Interior (Washington, D.C., 1890), vol. 4, part 2, pp. 6-8.
Arthur H. Frazier, Water Current Meters in the Smithsonian Collections of the National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, D.C., 1974), pp. 75-78.
Arthur H. Frazier and Wilbur Heckler, Embudo, New Mexico, Birthplace of Systematic Stream Gauging (Washington, D.C., 1972).
Currently not on view
Object Name
water current meter
date made
ca 1890
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Measuring & Mapping
Water Currents
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Water Currents
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
U. S. Geological Survey

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