Draper's Self Recording Thermometer
Innovative Device Made in New York City: c. 1900
Draper's Self Recording Thermometer
Draper's Self Recording Thermometer
Draper's Self Recording Thermometer Draper's Self Recording Thermometer
Draper's Self Recording Thermometer
Draper Manufacturing Co., New York: c. 1887-1910
Thermometer in cast iron case with paper dial
14.5 x 10.5 x 4.25 inches

An innovative so-called “self-recording thermometer” in cast iron case with gilded decoration, patented in New York City in 1887.  The interchangeable printed paper dial for recording the week's temperatures attaches to the front with metal clips, and a stylus pen on a thin metal lever moves as the temperature changes to automatically create a graph as the dial rotates over the course of a week.  The dial is turned by a clockwork mechanism contained within the iron case, probably by Seth Thomas.  A metal loop at the top allows for wall hanging.  Below the dial, the case has the name of the device in raised lettering. 

An 1898 meteorology book explains the mechanism and purposes of such devices:

The Draper self-recording thermometer, or thermograph, an American instrument, possesses a metallic thermometer, one end of which is fixed while the other end is attached to a train of levers, to magnify the small movements due to expansion or contraction by change of temperature.  The end of the last lever carries a pen which contains a non-freezing glycerine ink, and rests on a circular record sheet that rotates once a week.  As the temperature rises, the pen is carried outwards from the center of the sheet; as the temperature falls, the pen is carried inwards.  The sheet is divided into days and hours by curved radial lines, and into degrees by concentric circular lines; so that the temperature at any time can be easily read off.  Although instruments of this kind are not so accurate as good mercurial thermometers, they make up for their slight inaccuracy by the continuity of their record; and if checked by frequent readings of a mercurial thermometer and driven by an accurate clock, they are of great value.  The Draper self-recording thermometer is made by the Draper Manufacturing Co., 152 Front Street, New York.  The cost of this instrument is $15.00.

A U.S. Weather Service Bulletin from 1894 also discussed this instrument and observed that it could be used not only in weather-recording, but also for industrial applications such as drying kilns where temperatures needed to be monitored so they did not get too high.

Dr. Daniel Draper (1841-1931) was a significant figure in American meteorology, involved in setting up the New York Meteorological Observatory in Central Park in 1868 and inventor of a number of important weather measurement devices.  Among these was the self-recording thermometer, with a mechanism made by Seth Thomas, one of the pre-eminent American clockmakers.

Raised lettering on case: Draper's Self Recording Thermometer. 152 Front St, N.Y. City.  Patented 1887.

Dial label: Draper's Thermometer Observed At Week Ending ________19__.  Chart No. 5.  "Copyright" 188[illegible] by the Draper Mfg. Co. N.Y.

Condition:  Paper dial very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, soiling.  Case very good with the usual overall wear and oxidation to metal, and wear to gilt highlights.  Internal clock works, pen, and thermometer mechanism not operational.


Barker, Geoff.  "Draper's self-registering thermometer."  Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia. March 2007. http://from.ph/166729 (28 June 2011).

Bulletin, Issue 11, Parts 1-3.  United States Weather Bureau: 1894.  p. 715.  Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=yLoQAQAAMAAJ (28 June 2011).

Davis, William Morris.  Elementary Meteorology.  Boston: Ginn & Co., 1898.  p. 58.  Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=OtYEAAAAYAAJ (28 June 2011).

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