Thermometers, Box of

Thermometers, Box of

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The Lady Franklin Bay Expedition was one of two scientific expeditions that the U.S. Government sent to the Arctic as part of the first International Polar Year. The Expedition spent two years at Fort Conger on Ellesmere Island and then, after the supply and rescue ships failed to get through, another harrowing year struggling to get home. Of the 25 men who set sail from Newfoundland in 1881, only 6 survived.
Adolphus Washington Greely, the leader of the Expedition, was an officer with the U.S. Signal Service, a branch of the army that had established a national weather service in 1870. He was named Chief Signal Officer in 1887, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1935. In his book, Three Years of Arctic Service (1886), Greely noted that "Some excellent standard thermometers, of bisulphide of carbon, pure spirits of wine, and ether, were made for the expedition, under the careful supervision of Professor [Leonard] Waldo of Yale College Observatory. They were graduated in millimetres arbitrarily..."
The U.S. Weather Bureau, a successor to the Signal Service, transferred this set of thermometers to the Smithsonian in 1959. Six are Rutherford-type minimum thermometers with glass tubes, brass backings, and fitted wooden cases; each is marked "J. &. H. J. GREEN N.Y." and "YALE MIN. STD. MAY 1881. CORNING GLASS SQUIBBS" and "SIGNAL SERVICE U.S. ARMY." No. 2 and No. 4 are marked "ETHER." No. 6 and No. 8 are marked "CARBON DISULPHIDE." No. 10 and No. 12 are marked "ALCOHOL." Three other thermometers, Nos. 152, 708, and 1010, are marked simply "J. & H. J. GREEN N.Y. SIGNAL SERVICE U.S. ARMY." A handwritten note in the lid of the box, dated May 27, 1881, identifies the "Approximate value in degrees Fahrenheit of the scale readings Ether, Bisulph Carbon, Alcohol."
Currently not on view
Object Name
box of thermometers
date made
J. & H. J. Green
place made
United States: New York, New York City
overall in box: 16 in x 9 in x 7 1/2 in; 40.64 cm x 22.86 cm x 19.05 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
U.S. Weather Bureau
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Thermometers and Hygrometers
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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