Visually beautiful early electric design
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  1. #1
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    Default Visually beautiful early electric design

    I recently picked up this Weston Ammeter on CL. It had been listed a few months ago and expired, then showed up again.
    I'm in downsize mode so I kept telling myself, don't call....don't call. Then I thought, “I'll let it go through the weekend", surely it will be gone by then, (it was only $25). It was still there so I figured it must be fate. It was pretty dirty but cleaned up very nicely. The seller had gotten it years ago from where he worked, SD Warren Paper Mill in Westbrook Maine. It was part of a phone system, (he thinks), and had been in storage for years. They were going to scrap the system so he saved this ammeter and a matching volt meter. He sold the voltmeter a while back.
    It's really very beautiful and that got me thinking what a great job that would have been designing things in a time when the visual seemed just as important as functionality. This meter is about 7" OD. The face has a pebbled background with raised scroll work and stylized letters, and must weigh 8 or 9 lbs. The raised parts are all nickel plated. The body may be porcelain covered. It seems like cost was no factor in producing it.
    I guess anything electrical in the 1890's would have been so new and exciting that a company would want to show it off in the best way. I don't know, I should have asked the seller, but I can envision a large quarter sawn oak console with matching gauges, meters, switches, and dials.

    I have absolutely no practical use for this but as with a lot of my additions, I just like to look at it.
    If anyone else has any early aesthetically pleasing electrical devices please share.
    To keep this machine related, but doesn't have to be, a picture has been posted here before of an early lathe with a round lattice work cast iron motor on top, I'll see if I can find that.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_4235.jpg   img_4236.jpg   img_4234.jpg   img_4233.jpg   img_4230.jpg  


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    Here's that picture.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails old-lathe-nice-motor.jpg  

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    White marble or black slate were sometimes used as a board to mount electrical instruments in places where appearance was important. I think Biltmore House (1889) used the white marble.

    biltmore house electrical panel - Yahoo Image Search Results

    Larry

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    That is a particularly nice looking meter. I bought a few smaller ones at flea markets but nothing of that caliber.
    EDIT I thought I was over with this but upon closing, I saw the electric motor. The fine cast webbing and style it presented...i hadn't thought about this or how it would fit. It does seem to have fit into that time where women manned these machines. Brutal stinky heavy work but Look at the lacework of that one motor cover.

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    I don't have a photo, but a friend used to live in a big, old house that had been built circa 1900 and was still mostly original. The fuse panel was beautiful... all copper bus bars, ect... and it was prominently displayed in the second floor stair landing, trimmed out in Oak, with a glass door on the front. I always assumed that having electricity was probably a source of pride (and a status symbol) in those days.

    Andy

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    I think you're right Andy about having electricity being a status symbol.
    Here's a picture of a panel from Biltmore House that Larry linked.
    They look like all Weston meters at the top.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails biltmore.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by maynah View Post
    ...If anyone else has any early aesthetically pleasing electrical devices please share.
    Here's mine.
    westonmeter.jpg

    -Marty-

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    Still in business today: Weston Electrical Instrument Corp
    As stated in the link the NJIT library has quite a good collection of old instruments on display, donated directly by Weston.

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    I have this exact Ammeter and Voltmeter mounted in a small oak cabinet, although mine are copper plated. My late grandfather made the box and mounted them. My family was gonna toss it out. They sure don't make stuff like these anymore.

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    Blazemaster, I think they are all copper plated before they nickel plate and paint them. Rough shape meters on ebay have some of the black paint missing and they look copper underneath. Marty's shows it very well.

    Marty, I have been looking at images of old Weston meters like ours and I don't think I have seen any with the trim ring.
    Mine came with the ring but it doesn't attach to the meter. It seems like it would be mounted to a board separately. Maybe that's why you don't see them. When the meters are removed by new owners who don't plan to use them, why would you cover up the nickel trim around the circumference? You don't need the ring as there is a lip that would hide the hole you would inset the meter in. Yours looks like it has a integral ring, yes?
    The trim ring is painted copper, the meter face is steel.
    The seller said the ring was on the ammeter but it's not a very good fit.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails img_4250.jpg   img_4254.jpg  

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    Both of mine have a trim ring. Not sure why the photos turn like that. Attachment 267633Attachment 267635
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 20191019_113305.jpg   20191019_113300.jpg  

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    Both yours and Marty's rings look like a better fit than mine.
    Did your Grandfather use the meters, or did he just like the way they looked?

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    The story I was told is he got them from an old building of some sort that had them installed in a panel. He just liked the way they looked and was a woodworker so took em home and built the case to display them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blazemaster View Post
    The story I was told is he got them from an old building of some sort that had them installed in a panel. He just liked the way they looked and was a woodworker so took em home and built the case to display them.
    I had an appreciation for the early meters but being employed there, was a mixed blessing. Steel doors were unlocked after years dormancy and there were the vintage switch gear and meters from long ago. The feeds had been removed ages ago and the banks of meters and switches were in a huge lower floor. The policy was to never take anything of copper or heavy brass because it could be recycled and there was probably a contract to clear it all out. So there it was. Lots of stuff just got smashed and I got sick of looking at that.

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    I saw this with the Biltmore stuff: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/18/71/6c/1...-materials.jpg

    Paul

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    Here is a panel next to a generator in the Isaac Ludwig Mill near Grand Rapids, OH. It is run by the Toledo park system. The mill is water powered by the Maumee River, but also has a steam engine for backup. And nowadays, there are electric motors, too. The mill provided power for the town and also has a grain and saw mill. There is a nice line shaft machine and blacksmith shop that is actually used for maintenance by the park people, along with displaying old shop methods.

    Larry

    dsc01734.jpg dsc01733.jpg

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    Great pics. Thanks.

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    My grandfather worked for Westinghouse as an Electrical Engineer most of his career. A good portion of that in the "Large Motor Division" outside of Boston, MA.

    A good portion of his work involved "upgrades" to existing commercial installations. A significant object of the upgrades included making the power supplies and wiring to current code - which precludes open slate meter boards.

    Consequently grandfather was able to tap into a ready source and supply of obsoleted slate meter panels, which he brought home one by one in the back of his station wagon - and which he used as required to make "paths" in his garden. Durable, strong, weather resistant, and HEAVY. Unlike tar paper or plastic for the same purpose, slate doesn't blow away.

    The slate ran 24 inches by 36 inches and perhaps 3/4 inch thick. One strong person MIGHT be able to pick one up. As Grandfather got them they had been "drilled" for installation of the meters and switches, but the holes were small. Grandfather had MANY spare slates lined up behind the garage.

    I imagine somewhere in East Sandwich on Cape Code there is a house with a surplus of obsoleted slate panels just looking for a garden. One imagines the house current Owner might wonder where these came from or what they were used for?

    I would dearly like one to put as front access to my own garden.

    Joe in NH

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    Those are pretty things, Maynah. It's interesting how new technology was made pretty to be attractive; then, when it was accepted, the new became ugly. Just look at cars today; dang, they're hideous compared to the first ones. And thanks for showing pictures of Ludwig Mill, Larry. I didn't know they had an electric panel. I still haven't gotten down to see that place, and it's only about an hour and a half from me.

    Since you asked for pictures of our electoral things, Maynah, here's a video showing my voltmeter and ammeter working for my lights and outlets:

    YouTube

    My volt meter quit last week. As I was increasing the field to bring the volts up, suddenly the needle dropped, then started again, then fell back for good. I took it apart to see if I could see anything wrong, but I think it's the old resister inside, but I don't know. I assume that's what it is anyway: a bunch of plates wrapped in fine copper wire, sandwiched together with mica between them. I'm a blacksmith, not an electrician, so I'll need lotsa help to figure it out. I was going to start a thread yesterday asking questions, but I forgot to take pictures.

    Joel

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    Joel, that is beautiful.
    Visually and acoustically.
    It's good to see the meters being used for what they were intended.


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