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.

Date Made: ca 1876

Maker: Deschiens, Eugene

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: France: Île-de-France, Paris

Subject: MathematicsSteamships


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Counters, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Russell Munroe

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.314905Catalog Number: 314905Accession Number: 212171

Object Name: counter

Physical Description: steel (overall material)brass (overall material)wood (overall material)glass (overall material)velvet (overall material)silk (overall material)ivory (overall material)Measurements: overall: 4 cm x 9.5 cm x 8 cm; 1 9/16 in x 3 3/4 in x 3 5/32 in


Record Id: nmah_690543

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