* Updated * The Boyce Moto Meter and its origin

* Update * We have found that Harrison H. Boyce, an inventor from Jericho, N.Y. filed the first patent (seen in the middle of the post below) for a die casting to hold a temperature gauge for an automobile, but not the thermometer unit its self. Patents were found for later Boyce Moto Meters by him but not for the original.

We will do a follow up post on more of his interesting patents and other types of early temperature gauges including the interesting Calometer manufactured in England. If any readers have any good photos or more information, please send us a comment.

The Boyce Moto Meter has always been of interest to car enthusiasts, so it seemed as though it might be interesting to find out more about the story involving its invention and history. According to an article in the August 8, 1912, issue of  The Automobile Magazine (bottom left), it was “the invention of a former racing driver”. The driver is unknown to us and it appears that it may have been introduced earlier, possibly in 1911.

The photos above and just below show one of the rare and very early units on the (left) in all of the photos. They are marked as being made by the Taylor Instrument Companies of Rochester, N.Y., which is still in business today. If you study the photos of two units shown here, both of which are in original condition, you will note that the early instrument is quite a bit thinner and it carries a wider rim around the glass front and rear. The early unit also uses a narrower thermometer. A replacement thermometer can be seen in the (left) photo just below, in the middle. Both of these are large units and 3-3/8″ diameter (in the later teens and twenties they were available in many different sizes and styles).


The Motometer Company, Inc. was located at Broadway at 58th St. in New York City, in 1912 (see advertisement above), which may have been the sales office and showroom. The patent drawings were not readily available, but the earlier unit is marked that the firm received the patent on the device, on May 13, 1913, and had also had trade marked it as the Boyce Moto Meter. At a later date the company moved to Long Island City, N.Y.

At some point in time, there was a change from the Taylor design, where the thermometer end was was surrounded by a tubular bolt (see photos), which also attached the device to the radiator cap. At the end of this bolt can be seen a nickel – plated guard, which protected the end of the glass tube.

The later style as seen here in all the photos on the (right), has the commonly seen threaded brass brass tube inserted into the bottom of the unit. The thermometer tube is inserted through the bottom and then afterward is covered with a thin brass disc in the bottom of the tube which is rolled over to retain it. The nickel – plated – knurled and thimble shaped piece seen (often missing) in the (top) photo, to the left side of the base, threads on over the end after it is placed in the radiator cap and held on by the brass check nut seen on the stem of the base.


Take a moment to read The Automobile article, August 8, 1912 (above left), which explains its construction in detail. The illustrations in the middle show the earlier style device. The letter on the (right), sent to the editor of  The Automobile Magazine, August 14, 1913, by the president of The Motormeter Co. Inc. and points out how if the directions  are followed, it a very accurate device indeed.

The unit with the Locomobile script has been tested in the past and just as is mentioned in the letter, submerged in water it will not rise above 200 degrees even in boiling water. When put in a vented container with a top and measuring the air temperature over the water as intended, it will then indeed raise over 200 and at the boiling point measures 212 exactly. It is the shop Moto – Meter that we always use here on road tests of newly rebuilt engines and on other cars that are in the shop for service and it has worked very well for years and over thousands of miles here and on tours.

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8 Responses to * Updated * The Boyce Moto Meter and its origin

  1. Bob Croslin says:

    David, do you know who makes them today?

  2. Chip Lamb says:

    Here’s another unusual variant, by the National Pyrometroscope Company. Sold this for an estate last summer. http://www.classicmotorcarauctions.com/glenmoor12/memo.php?id=8302

  3. jerry barclay says:

    Have an original with a flip open can opener

  4. Francis Clax says:

    The answer to your proposition presented via the following above article statement, “Patents were found for later Boyce Moto Meters by him but not for the original,” is that Hrrison H. Boyce’s “original”Indicating system and apparatus for internal combustion engines”" is found in his fundament, underlying and overriding patent (U.S. Pat. No. 1, 090,776, filed January 3, 1913, issued March 17, 1914). While he could “easily” seek a patent for his “gauge” casing (or frame), the thermometer had long since been invented (approx 17th Century) and patented long before Boyce’s time, therein nullifying his ability to stake a claim on that particular basis. It is described and claimed in Patent 1, 0909,776 that Harrison speaks to his instrument being “an improvement in indicating systems . . . particularly for those . . . wherein the cylinders are cooled by a fluid medium which is circulated therearound or thereabout . . .”

    Taylor Instrument Company (of Rochester, New York) was selected by George H. Townsend II, founder/president of the Motometer Company, Inc. to perform the initial manufacturing of Boyce Moto-Meter instruments, between 1913 – 1916, until the Motometer Co. could establish its own manufacturing capability (in January 1917).

    I have a beautiful, fully functional very early 1913 Boyce Moto-Meter from the earliest run. It is of the original patent design and is a registered numbered model. It is the lowest numbered “Made by Taylor Instrument Companies” Boyce Moto-Meter instrument in known collections. It looks much like the center figure in the fourth series of images presented on this page.

    Note: Dave your Blog is a useful, educational and entertaining resource. Thanks for keeping it up!

  5. I have a Boyce Motor Meter that is dated 13th. May 1913 and 17March 1914 and on the front The Co. name reads ..Boyce Motor Meter Standard. It measures in diameter close to 3.5 inc. and there is a glass tube going horizontal five sixteenths in width.

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