Charles Wilder, of Peterborough, New Hampshire. A super clean tiger maple cased stick barometer. The Bat model. 220034

This stick barometer is American made. In fact, it was made in the small New Hampshire village of Peterborough circa 1865 by Charles Wilder.

Barometers were once common in households across the world. This simple yet very useful device predicts the approaching weather by measuring changes in air pressure also called barometric pressure. While technological advancements have replaced the humble barometer in meteorological circles, they’re still fun to have at home. They are a conversation piece and a teaching tool. Used daily, they can allow you to feel more connected to the natural forces at work outside.

Very few barometers were made in this country. The vast majority of the examples that come to the marketplace are of European manufacture. These instruments were typical where made in two forms prior to the 1900’s. The “stick” version is long and often narrow. The case was a form of protection for the long glass tube. The second version is called a wheel barometer. This version differs in that the level is read on a wheel display. These are often 12 inches wide or more. This is a wonderful opportunity to buy an all American made product.

It appears that Joshua Wilder made three case versions of the stick barometer form. This example, “the bat,” is the most unusual in that the case that protects the tube is shaped on a lathe. As a result, it is a rounded form. The wood selected for this example is maple and it exhibits a fair amount of tiger striping. If you were to divide this case up into parts, you would start at the bottom or base. The base section holds the cast iron cistern. A cistern is designed to hold the reservoir of mercury. This cast iron cistern is the part that Woodruff designed and patented. His design allowed one to turn a screw which in turn held the level of mercury stabil during transportation. The shut off screw is located on the right. The middle of the case is shaped and slightly tapers towards the top. A turned wooden acorn shaped finial surmounts the top of case. The glass barometer tube is enclosed in the length of the case. Behind the curved piece of glass located in the upper section is the instrument display. The engraved plates are brass and have been treated with a silver wash. The faceplate on the right is engraved with incremental scales from 27 to 31. It is this scale that the level of mercury in the main tube is read against. The changes in the level of mercury will forecast the weather. This is the purpose of this device. The top of the faceplate is die-stamped with the patent information. It reads, “WOODRUFF’S / PAT. / JUNE 5, 1860.” At the bottom is the Maker’s information. It reads, “C. WILDER / PETERBORO, / N.H. “ A vernier is also located on the right. Its scale is adjustable and is operated by a wire that extends through the top of case. A small acorn is fitted to this wire and is used to help adjust this sliding scale either up or down. A thermometer is located on the left of the main tube and is mounted on its own scale. The faceplate here is die-stamped with the following benchmarks, “BLOODHEAT, / SUMRHEAT, / TEMPERATE / AND FREEZING.” These are all important markers on the thermometer scale. Their numerical values are also included here.

This instrument is fully operational and was originally made circa 1865. Overall, this barometer measures 37.25 inches long.


About Charles Wilder of Peterborough, New Hampshire. An American barometer maker.

Charles Wilder was born the son of Mark and Eliza Ann ( Thayer ) Wilder. He attended the common schools and the Academy in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He became a popular teacher at the Academy and later the Principal. He had planned to continue his education and become a lawyer but his Fathers debts forced him into the family business of shoe pegs. He pursued this business for two years when in 1860 he secured the rights to manufacture portable mercury barometers under the patent issued to a Mr. Lum Woodruff of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lum Woodruff reported weather observations to the Smithsonian Institution. He patented a portable barometer that proved to be extremely popular. Its key feature was a divided cistern. It was constructed so that when the glass tube was full of mercury, the lower portion of the cistern would be as well. As a result, it could be shut off from the now empty upper portion. In the fall of 1861, Charles Wilder converted an old factory in Peterborough into a barometer shop. He began touting the virtues of Woodruff’s instrument. He claimed that it was “simple, durable, accurate, perfectly portable, and very cheap,” and also “a very beautiful and ornamental piece of furniture.” It promised farmers a five percent savings on all their crops. For scientific men it offered “superior accuracy.” And for “gentlemen of leisure and cultivation” it offered a “never ending and constantly varying study of interest.” All three of Wilder’s standard barometer designs had a natural position and use for a thermometer. His scale in Fahrenheit ranged from 0 to 110 degrees. Wilder Barometers were sold throughout the United States by advertising through the leading agricultural periodicals of the day. As a successful businessman and prominent citizen he was an active member and supporter of his Church. He served as a representative to the state legislature in 1869 and 1870 and was also a town moderator in 1869. He died in 1900. The business continued for a short time until it was sold to the W. & L. E. Gurley Instrument Company of Troy, New York. (Most of this info was provided from the Peterborough, New Hampshire Historical Society.)


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