Counter, Deschiens Compteur

Counting the number of revolutions of a shaft allowed steamship owners to gauge the distance between ports, helped gas companies measure the quantity of their product sold, and aided engineers seeking to determine when a steam pump would require fuel. Combined with a watch, revolution counters allowed one to measure the velocity of any number of machines.
Eugène Deschiens, whose business was active in Paris from 1866 until 1894, was an eminent manufacturer of revolution counters and velocity meters (known also as tachometers). An 1884 article on tachometers reported that his instrument was “so well known we need not describe it.” His devices won prizes at national and international exhibitions. They were used on ships of both the French and the British navies, as well as by a range of other manufacturers.
This small cylindrical instrument has brass sides, a glass top, and a metal bottom painted black. Under the glass are five windows, which show digits. Steel or German silver rods extend from opposite sides of the cylinder. A section of the case contains eight steel pieces that may be used to turn these rods and hence cause the counter to count. One of these has an ivory handle. The pieces are in different shapes, so that they will link to different mechanisms.
A mark inside the glass top read: COMPTEUR (/) SYSTÈME BREVETÉ S.G.D.G. (/) No 701. Another in the same location reads: E. Deschiens (/) Constructeur (/) PARIS.
The wooden case is lined with satin and velvet and partly covered with leather. A mark on the lining of the lid reads: MÉDAILLES de MERITE VIENNE 1873 (/) OR, PLATINE & ARGENT PARIS 1875 (/) MÉCANIQUE de PRÉCISION (/) TÉLÉGRAPHIE & HOROLOGERIE (/) ÉLECTRIQUES (/) E. DESCHIENS (/) 123 Boulevard St Michel (/) PARIS.
E. Deschiens, Compteur Totalisateur, [ca 1875]. This is a trade catalog.
J. E. Deschiens, “Système de compteur à mouvement alternatif ou à piston, dit: Compteur de poche,” Brevet d’invention 159,294, December 20, 1883. A copy is at:
“Compteur totalisateur de M. E. Deschiens,” Les Mondes, 32 #9, October 30, 1873, pp. 373–374.
“A New Tachometer,” Scientific American Supplement, 18, November 1, 1884, p. 7358.
J. Laffargue, “Les Compteurs et Indicateurs de Nombre de Tours,” La Nature, 22, December 2, 1893, pp. 45–46.
L’Industrie Française des Instruments de Précision, Paris: Syndicat des Constructeurs en Instruments d’Optique & de Précision, 1902. pp. 74–77. This is an advertisement by Deschiens’s successor, Alph. Darras.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1876
Deschiens, Eugene
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
glass (overall material)
velvet (overall material)
silk (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
overall: 4 cm x 9.5 cm x 8 cm; 1 9/16 in x 3 3/4 in x 3 5/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Russell Munroe
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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