Bourdon-Type Steam Gauge – ca 1860

Bourdon-Type Steam Gauge – ca 1860

Usage conditions apply
This Bourdon-Type steam gauge was used in the plant for first water supply system in Washington, D.C. In boiler operation, knowing the steam pressure at all times is essential. For pressures of less than about one atmosphere (15 pounds per square inch), simple mercury columns were adequate as indicators. With the use of high pressure engines and boilers many types of gauges were introduced. In all of these the pressure of the steam acted against a spring loaded piston or diaphragm to move a pointer.
In the first really successful gauge, invented in 1849 by Eugene Bourdon of France, a curved tube, elliptical in cross section, was used. When pressurized, the ellipse tended to become more circular, causing a slight straightening of the tube exactly proportional to the pressure. The free end of the tube was linked to the indicating pointer. Bourdon gauges remained in widespread use well into the 20th century.
Object Name
Gauge, Water
gauge, steam
date made
ca 1860
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
overall: 2 1/8 in x 8 1/2 in; 5.3975 cm x 21.59 cm
overall-catalog card: 2 3/8 in x 9 in; x 6.0325 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Transfer from Capitol Power Plant, Washington, D. C.
Steam Engines
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Power Machinery
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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