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Q: Identifying antique wagon wheel odometer ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Identifying antique wagon wheel odometer
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: layer2-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 08 Nov 2002 13:06 PST
Expires: 08 Dec 2002 13:06 PST
Question ID: 102978
I have an antique wagon wheel odometer. The outside is a five inch
diameter leather case that has straps that attach to the wheel hub.
Inside is a slightly smaller tin case. Within the tin case is a brass
assembly that has a pendulum that turns a screw and counter. There are
no patent dates or markings of any kind on the assembly. I have a jpeg
image of the odometer. What is its vintage and value?

Request for Question Clarification by tar_heel_v-ga on 08 Nov 2002 13:26 PST
Can you provide a link to the picture of the item?  It would help the
Researchers tremendously.



Clarification of Question by layer2-ga on 08 Nov 2002 17:34 PST
Link to image:
Subject: Re: Identifying antique wagon wheel odometer
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 21 Nov 2002 14:10 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear layer2-ga;

The instrument you have is indeed an odometer used to measure the
distance traveled by a human drawn cart or a horse drawn wagon. It
dates to the late 1800’s (probably 1890’s) and was used by surveyors
and other Topographical Engineers to determine how far they had
traveled in a given day. It originally came in a stout leather case
and was strapped or attached to a wheel of a wagon to measure the
number of revolutions. The dial, which was attached to a heavy brass
weight, hung down while the frame and worm gear revolved. The gears
were set according to the measurement of the wheel, which was, as you
might imagine, of utmost importance in order to provide an accurate
estimate because reading were used to draft maps of an area for later
conversion to scale. At the end of the day the surveyor would multiply
the number of recorded revolutions by the diameter of the wheel to
which it was attached to obtain the number of feet traveled. He would
average this number as miles, adjusting it as much as 1 to 3 percent,
depending upon how rough the terrain had been during the day’s
travels. The result was by no means accurate but provided a fairly
good idea of the overall distance.

On April 19, 1847, William Clayton, lead his wagon train from Omaha,
Nebraska to Utah an in his journals he recorded his mileage. On this
trip Clayton employed the use of a “roadometer” which was made of
wooden cogs and gears that made use of the same rudimentary
calculating methods that the later brass wheel odometer would use (you
can see a reproduction of the original “Exodus Odometer” on the
“Heritage Gateway” link below) . There is no doubt that yours, made
most likely of brass, dates to a period much later, and is one used by
a surveyor of the time (you can see an odometer like yours on the
Corps of Engineers link below). These were relatively short lived as
the invention of the automobile in the early 1900’s did away with the
need for both “roadometers” and wagons.

“LUNDS Auctioneers & Appraisers Ltd.” Recently sold one of these
odometers at auction. The pre-sale price was estimated by Lund’s
Auction at $15.00 - $20.00 CND ($9.50 - $12.68 USD). The device sold
for $22.00 CND ($13.95 USD).

You have a wonderfully interesting piece of Americana and it may very
well sell for twice, or even three times that price to a collector of
period antiques or memorabilia. An avid collector of survey equipment
may offer a bit more. At the very least, it would make a welcomed gift
or loan to your local museum should be inclined to do so.

I hope you find this information interesting and useful. I look
forward to working with you again in the near future.

Best regards;

Company B, United States Corps of Engineers - Topographical Engineers
“Surveying & Mapping Equipment of the 1800’s”

“LUNDS Auctioneers & Appraisers Ltd.”
(See: 0200 - Odometer in case.)

““Soil Survey Field Method of the late 1890’s – early 1900’s”

“Heritage Gateway – Replica of the Original Exodus Odometer”


Google ://

brass wagon wheel odometer
19th century brass odometer
museum wagon odometer
layer2-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Answer was right on the money.

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