Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Artifact Thursday: Pressure Gauge from U.S.S. Kearsarge

Posted in Technology by Andy Hall on February 14, 2013

Kearsarge Gauge 00 Small


A fellow blogger passed along these images of a steam gauge found in a local antique shop. It was one of three purchased in a lot at an estate auction. After completing his purchase, the buyer found a note affixed to the bottom of this one, attesting to its provenance as being from the ship that sank C.S.S. Alabama off Cherbourg in 1864 — the seller either hadn’t looked, or didn’t understand its significance.


Kearsarge Gauge 01 Small


And here’s a similar gauge from the same lot — but apparently not from Kearsarge — to give a better idea of its original appearance:


Another Gauge 01 Small


I don’t know the current owner, or the asking price; I just thought it’s a remarkable and serendipitous discovery. Also unknown is whether this piece was an element of the ship’s engineering plant during the Civil War, or was added during a later refit. Kearsarge went through the postwar decommissioning/recommissioning cycle three different times before she she was finally wrecked on a reef in the Caribbean in 1894. On each of those occasions, the engineering plant likely went through an overhaul that would include replacement or refurbishing of various elements, and a gauge like this would have been generic, not custom-fitted for any particular vessel or powerplant. It’s very similar to, though probably an earlier model, the examples in this 1896 catalog of its maker, the American Steam Gauge Co. of Boston. I still have to dig into the details of Kearsarge‘s powerplant(s) to get a clearer picture there.

Anyway, cool stuff, and a big thanks to my colleague who passed it along!



4 Responses

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  1. Mark Brown said, on February 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’m the lucky owner of the gauge and am just completing a detailed narrative confirming the provenance of the Kearsarge gauge that will appear in the North South Trader Civil War magazine, publication date TBD. The gauge will be made available for resale later this summer through my shop, Why Not Antiques, in Middletown, VA.

  2. Robert Moore said, on February 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Cat’s out of the bag, I reckon’. ;)

    • Andy Hall said, on February 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      So it seems. Thanks again for passing this along, Robert.

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