For sale, an Art Deco period shop display “Stormoguide” aneroid barometer by Short & Mason of London for the retailer and optician DR Grey of Gorleston on Sea, Norfolk.
This unusually large barometer has a 12” painted dial and brass and glass fronted bezel. The barometer is set upon a large beech frame with Art Deco styling. Upon the plinth there remains a brass plaque with instructions on how to read the “Stormoguide’s” measurements. It reads:
“To read the Stormoguide – Observe the red signal. When appearing in the rising aperture the outer circle of forecasts should be observed. When appearing in the falling aperture. The inner circle should be observed. Forecasts sixteen to eighteen hours in advance.”
The stormoguide was a clever means of popularising the barometer by Short & Mason in the early Twentieth Century. Rather than trying to purely interpret the barometric pressure in inches or using the old Admiral Fitzroy method of forecast, the company sought to provide visual description and meaning to the movement of the dial. These were not necessarily new indices but Short & Mason sought to remove the complication of reading a barometer and to make it an immediate and useful piece of household equipment.
This example of the “Stormoguide” was manufactured for use in shop displays as both an educational tool to allow customers to understand the new product but also as a wow factor for passers-by. The practice of putting oversized barometers as shop displays was popular during the Victorian period and this model is perhaps the last example of the practice. Most of these display pieces were dual branded with the optician’s or jewellers that were selling Short & Mason’s product. DR Grey remains in business to this day and has been trading since the 1930’s when this barometer was originally made. It must have therefore graced the optician’s window in the very early years of its trading history.
Short & Mason were formed by Thomas Watling Short & William James Mason in 1864 and were based in Hatton Garden, London. They were makers of barometers and scientific instruments but a significant part of their business was focussed upon aneroid barometers by the start of the twentieth century. They moved from Hatton Garden to Walthamstow in 1910 and in 1921 lodged a copyright for their new means of forecasting the weather by observing changes in atmospheric pressure. Later in the twenties, a similar US copyright was taken out by Taylor Instruments who sold the “Stormoguide” in America. The firm of Taylor Instruments merged with Short & Mason in 1969 although the company did have similar trading deals with Negretti & Zambra in the Twentieth Century.
A contemporary advert of Short & Mason reads, “The “Stormoguide” makes a fine present – The “Stormoguide” is more than just a barometer. Its specially marked dial enables future weather conditions to be determined with accuracy, at a glance. The “Stormoguide” is made by Short & Mason, the famous precision instrument makers whose range of 20 different “Stormoguides” and barometers, is on display now at your jewellers or opticians.”