Swinging Gate Seismometer

Collections · Physics

Accession Number: 2015.ph.653

Instrument Name: Swinging Gate Seismometer


The seismometer is mounted on a metal base painted white, with three adjustable brass feet, and a sunken lip so that a large plexiglas cover can fit over the instrument. Two brass dials sit outside the case lip.

Inside the encased area, the base is textured brass. A large black-painted metal scaffold supports an arm that extends lengthwise between two stainless steel brackets. The scaffold has two brass knobs, and two sets of brass squares, at the top and bottom. The plate between the brass knobs reads “1004″. On the bottom of the scaffold, two larger brass dials secure a piece of plexiglas used to support a spool of copper wire which is mounted off of the scaffold. Attached to the copper wire are red-and-black covered electrical wires, attached to two black plastic knobs; these wires and knobs are not attached elsewhere and are very loose. This entire piece, with the copper wire, has been added to the instrument and was not part of the manufacturer’s model.

The black metal scaffold extends forwards to form a sort of arm, which supports two plates that are suspended between two metal brackets. Each bracket consists of a wedge-shaped black metal support with a brass tightening screw and two stainless steel blocks. The plate closer to the centre is plastic, with a thin metal foil on top and some kind of red centre. The plate closest to the edge is copper, supported by the thin arm and a metal-and-plexiglas cylinder.

At one corner, there is a horizontal level tube with some kind of clear fluid inside. There is also a brass plate with red paint reading “SPRENGNETHER INSTRUMENT CO.”, “ST. LOUIS, MO.”, “U. S. A.”, “1004″, and shows the company’s logo as well.

Alternative Name: Seismometer

Primary Materials:

Brass, steel, copper, metal, plastic, glass, tape, fluid


“1004″ is inscribed on the brass plate of the scaffold. One edge of the white metal base has “GPX. 7A” written in very faint marker. An “x” is scratched into the base as well. There are several pieces of masking tape on the instrument, and the manufacturer’s logo sticker is stuck to the plastic case.

Dimensions (cm):

Case: height = 29.3, width = 26, length = 51.4. Instrument: height = 27, width = 29.2, length = 56.8


This is a device for measuring the minute movements of the earth.


Fair. Damage to instrument itself is minimal, although case is unsightly.

Manufacturer: Sprengnether Instrument Co.


This object was acquired from the Physics department at U of T.

Additional Information and References:

An audio interview with Gordon West (Jan 6, 2015) discusses this instrument. He identifies some damage to the object (broken hinge) and its probable cause and describes this seismometer as well as alternatives.

Donated to UTSIC: Yes

Historical Notes:

1) St. Louis University Earthquake Centre. “Sprengnether horizontal seismometer.” Sprengnether Instruments. Last accessed February 3, 2015. Found at http://www.eas.slu.edu/eqc/eqc_history/SprengnetherInstruments/eqc_SprengInst.html.