Historical information

This Sikes brass hydrometer was manufactured by the optical and scientific instrument makers Kasner & Moss in Melbourne in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was donated to Flagstaff Hill in 1979 by local wine and spirits merchants Lynch Bros of Fairy Street, Warrnambool.
Sikes hydrometers were used to measure the density, or specific gravity, of liquids. They were commonly used by distillers, vintners, and brewers to establish accurate measures of alcohol concentration in their beverages. Following on from this manufacturing process, government inspectors and excise officers used them to check that the labelled indications of alcohol-proof were correct and that the right amounts of duty were being paid.
This hydrometer and its fitted and hinged wooden container both show signs of heavy and protracted use in a working environment. The instrument’s historical significance is compromised by missing weights and a re-soldered (and therefore incorrectly calibrated) float.
However the original quality of the inlaid box, and the fine engraving on the instrument and attachable weights, are indications of the hydrometer’s very real value when new.
This Sikes hydrometer, bearing the makers mark of “Kasner & Moss Melbourne” and the registered number “20373”, was presented to the purchasing public as a precision made instrument designed for professional use.
There is no provenance from the point of manufacture and sale through to the donation of the artefact to Flagstaff Hill, a gap of 100 years. However the donor source, and their occupation as a local business, implies that this hydrometer’s use was connected, at least in recent decades, with the alcohol trade in the south west region of Victoria. Lynch Bros are locally interesting because they were a licensed outlet for liquor, but not a hotel, in the period prior to the general relaxation of licensing laws.


The Sikes hydrometer is of local significance because of its implied association with the alcohol trade in the south west region of Victoria. It was donated by a family member of Lynch Bros, a local licensed outlet for wines and spirits in the period prior to the general relaxation of liquor licensing laws in the State of Victoria.

Physical description

A Sikes brass hydrometer with original inlaid wooden casing. Artefact exhibits signs of heavy use; satin lid lining is missing, felt interior lining of box base is stained and worn, float stem has been resoldered to ball, and one end of timber box base replaced (repairs 2010). Boxed set includes 5 weights (20, 30, 40, 80, 90) but 5 weights are missing (10, 50, 60, 70, 100). An empty compartment in the box suggests another part of the initial set, most probably a thermometer, has also been lost.

Inscriptions & markings

Inlaid wooden plaque on top of box with hot-stamped text “SIKES HYDROMETER”, “KASNER & MOSS”, and “MELBOURNE”. The brass float has “SIKES 20373” engraved on its lower, conical stem. On both flat sides of the upper, measuring stem is an engraved scale of 1 to 10, with each numbered section subdivided into a further five marked parts. One thin edge of the upper measuring stem bears the cursive inscription “Kasner & Moss”, then upper case Print “MELBOURNE”, and the symbol of “P” rotated 90 degrees. The opposite narrow edge bears the engraved inscriptions “N20.373”, “SIKES”, and “I P % II O” (in ornate capitals). Each surviving weight bears its own unique numerals and then the same serial number “20373”.