Testing Tubes

New scientific tests developed to diagnose disease or ensure the quality and safety of food and water increased demand for a variety of specialty test tubes and for the laboratories and personnel to carry out these tests.

Method of holding test tubes for inoculation

From A Laboratory Course in Bacteriology by Frederic P. Gorham, 1901


Cream Bottles for Babcock test

In 1890 chemist Stephen M. Babcock developed a test to determine milk quality. His simple chemical reaction provided a way to easily measure the amount of fat present in milk (the key to quality) and quickly became a standard part of every dairy. The new test created a demand for cheap but accurate graduated test bottles, pipettes, and cylinders, resulting in the first large-scale production of graduated glassware in the United States.

Stephen Babcock with a dairy cow in a University of Wisconsin pasture, 1928

Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-104256

Smith tubes

In the 1880s bacteriologist Theobald Smith adapted the glass fermentation tube for identifying disease-causing microorganisms in drinking water. His techniques were used by health departments to examine water for sewage pollution.

Kahn antigen dilution tubes

In the early 1920s immunologist Reuben Leon Kahn developed a simplified test for detecting syphilis. Public health department laboratories required tubes in bulk to carry out testing on the general population.

Poster encouraging blood test for syphilis and gonorrhea, NYC Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, 1936–1938

Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZC2-1119


Other Objects

Cream bottle

Cream bottle

Cream bottle

Cream bottle

Cream bottle

Cream bottle