Artifact Thursday: Pressure Gauge from U.S.S. Kearsarge
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.
And here’s a similar gauge from the same lot — but apparently not from Kearsarge — to give a better idea of its original appearance:
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!