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Elijah Southworth (1759-1834) was a New York watchmaker who, in 1812, began making silver hydrometers suitable for gauging spirituous liquors. This instrument had one weight, and a scale so contrived that the alcoholic strength could be read directly, but only at temperature of 60° F. By 1818, Southworth’s hydrometer had become the standard for merchantable proof in New York. In 1820, Southworth requested compensation from the state of New York, for having invented a hydrometer and served as a revolutionary soldier. In 1821, Southworth received a federal patent for his hydrometer. William T. Gendar produced Southworth hydrometers in the 1840s. This silver hydrometer with graduated stem is based on Southworth’s design.
Ref: Southworth’s Patented Hydrometer (broadside).
Harrison Hall, The Distiller (Philadelphia, 1818), p. 322.
“Hydrometer Improved,” [New York] Evening Post (Aug. 18, 1812), p. 3.
“Legislature of New-York, House of Assembly,” [New York] Evening Post (Feb. 28, 1820), p. 2.
William T. Gendar, “Sole Manufacturer of Southworth’s Patent Hydrometer,” ad in The Cleveland Herald (Sept. 25, 1848).
Currently not on view
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overall in container: 8 3/8 in x 1 9/16 in; 21.2725 cm x 3.96875 cm
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National Museum of American History
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