Price Water Current Meter

William Gunn Price, of the U.S. Engineer Department, designed an exceptionally successful water current meter in 1882, obtained a patent, and asked W. & L. E. Gurley, a large mathematical instrument firm in Troy, New York, to undertake commercial production. Building on suggestions made by hydrographers who used these early instruments, Edwin Geary Paul, a mechanic with the U.S. Geological Survey, designed what would be known as the Small Price Current Meter.
This example, the first production model of that successful design, is marked “W. & L. E. GURLEY, TROY, N.Y. / PATENTED AUG. 25, 1885 / NO. 1.” The “U.S.G.S. 91” inscription means that it was the ninety-first current meter owned by the Geological Survey. Geological Survey documents record its purchase in December 1896. It is 12 inches long, and has a stationary single blade rudder, a wheel with six conical buckets, and electrical contacts. The Geological Survey transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1916
Ref: William Gunn Price, “Current Meter,” U.S. Patent 325011 (1885).
Arthur H. Frazier, William Gunn Price and the Price Current Meters (Washington, D.C., 1967), p. 58.
Arthur H. Frazier, Water Current Meters in the Smithsonian Collections of the National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, D.C., 1974), pp. 84.
W. & L. E. Gurley, A Manual of the Principal Instruments Used in American Engineering and Surveying (Troy, N.Y., 1905), pp. 211-220.
Currently not on view
Object Name
water current meter
date made
W. & L. E. Gurley
overall: 12 in; 30.48 cm
place made
United States: New York, Troy
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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