Saybolt Colorimeter

George M. Saybolt (d. 1924) organized the Inspection Laboratory of the Standard Oil Co., managed it for 36 years, and designed the "Universal Chromometer" for use with refined petroleum oils. Saybolt's instrument was adopted as a standard test by the United States Fuel Association (by 1919), the American Society for Testing Materials (1923), the National Petroleum Association, and the American Petroleum Institute. The C. J. Tagliabue Mfg. Co., then the major U.S. manufacturer of instruments for testing petroleum and petroleum products, was offering the Saybolt Universal Chromometer by 1919. The Fisher Scientific Co. of Pittsburgh assumed responsibility for the manufacture of these instruments in the early 1950s.
The Saybolt Chromometer has two vertical tubes, one holding a standard colored glass and the other holding the sample to be analyzed, both of which are seen through an eyepiece at the top. Using the cock in the sample tube, the operator can draw down the sample until the colors of the two tubes appear the same. The height of the sample at that point is an indication of its quality.
This example is marked "GEO. M. SAYBOLT / STANDARD UNIVERSAL CHROMOMETER / MANUFACTURED BY / C. J. TAGLIABUE MFG. CO. / BROOKLYN U.S.A." It incorporates some slight modifications that Tagliabue introduced in 1930, and that made the instrument easier to clean and use. The Stevens Institute of Technology donated it to the Smithsonian in 1960.
Ref: Foster D. Snell, Colorimetric Analysis (New York, 1921), pp. 21-23.
C.J. Tagliabue Mfg. Co., Catalog of TAG Oil Testing Instruments (New York, 1930), p. 10.
Currently not on view
C.J. Tagliabue Manufacturing Company
overall: 26 1/2 in; 67.31 cm
base: 5 1/2 in x 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Stevens Institute of Technology
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Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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