Gas for everyone

At the end of the 19th century, coin-operated gas meters gave many city-dwellers access to natural gas in their homes.

By NEMO Science Museum

Coin gas meter (1941) by Nederlandsche Gasmeterfabriek George WilsonNEMO Science Museum

At that time, building a gas network and offering access to every home in major cities was an interesting investment opportunity for fledgling gas companies.

To use gas, people who had one of these meters in their home would drop a coin into it.

gas coin (1930) by Koninklijke Nederlandse MuntNEMO Science Museum

At the beginning of the 20th century, three 2.5 cent coins would buy you 1 m3 of gas.

Because the gas price kept rising, setting a fixed price would have hurt the gas companies’ profits.

That is why they introduced gas coins, which were sold at small local shops, like grocers and tobacconists.

The price of these tokens changed with the gas price.

Coin gas meter (1941) by Nederlandsche Gasmeterfabriek George WilsonNEMO Science Museum

George Wilson supplied the coin gas meters for the city of The Hague.

Wilson was an Englishman who in 1878 had started working at the Rotterdam office of the Imperial Continental Gas Association, a leading British gas company.

In 1916, he struck out on his own and founded the De Nederlandsche Gasmeterfabriek George Wilson in The Hague.

Coin gas meter by Nederlandsche Gasmeterfabriek George WilsonNEMO Science Museum

This glass version was a demonstration model to show how the gas meter worked.

A coin is inserted, causing the gas to start running through the meter. One token buys you 1 m3 of gas.

Two bellows take turns filling up with gas and emptying again. Based on the known capacity of both bellows, it is easy to calculate how much gas is flowing in and out.

The two bellows are connected to the meters. This causes the meters to spin, which makes it possible to keep track of how much gas is being used.

This video explains how the bellows work exactly.

Coin gas meter (1941) by Nederlandsche Gasmeterfabriek George WilsonNEMO Science Museum

At the beginning of the 20th century, almost every home was fitted with a gas connection. Nowadays, the government wants to encourage people to stop using gas and switch to more sustainable energy sources.

Credits: Story

Object of the Month – December 2020

Every month NEMO Science Museum showcases one of the 19,000 extraordinary objects in its collection. These objects, which were once part of people’s everyday lives, show us how technology has changed over time.

Source
- The Hague Industrial Heritage Foundation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Once Upon a Try
A journey of invention and discovery with CERN, NASA, and more than 100 museums around the world
View theme
Google apps