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Going Retro to Measure the Heat

DSC_0379Ian Duncan A 1930’s farm thermometer.

With predictions flying of record-setting temperatures this week, I wanted to test some thermometers. Not just any temperature gauges, though, I was looking for veterans which, if they had memories, would remember the sweltering June of 1933. With that goal in mind, I dropped in to Archangel Antiques on East Ninth Street (thank you Yelp). Inside, the little store was crammed with all manner of trinkets and a handsome collection of pocket watches.

“Bit of a weird one,” I told Michael Duggan, one of the store’s proprietors, “I’m looking for a thermometer from the 1930’s.”

Mr. Duggan screwed his face up slightly in an expression that suggested I might be out of luck. “That’s tough,” he said, before quickly rounding up three different instruments: one from the 1930’s, one from the 20’s and another from the 1870’s.

That last was beautiful. Enclosed in a case of tortoise shell and with a bone back plate, the bulb and column of the thermometer measured the temperature using real mercury. “People would travel with these to see how miserable they would be,” Mr. Duggan explained.
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