There are major sciences involved in one being able to drink a glass of wine from a bottle of this beverage. The sciences of wine chemistry, viticulture, and enology are becoming more intricate and sophisticated each year. Science incorporates the tools that winemakers utilize to produce some of the best wines.
The Wine History Project has six tools which might have been utilized by winemakers at the end of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. The testing which these tools made possible are still performed to this day – some still utilizing newer, updated versions of these tools.
This is the first of a series explaining each of these tools from the WHP Collection. I don’t know about you, but I can only digest science in small doses so therefore I will provide some information about each one of the scientific tools, or enological objects from the WHP Collection, with each article.
Viticulture is the science of the growing, cultivation, and harvesting of grapes. Oenology, also known as enology (oenology), is the science and study of wine and winemaking and is distinct from viticulture. An “oenologist” is an expert in the science of wine and of the arts and techniques for making wine.
This word oenology is an English word which derived from the Greek word oinos, or wine, and the suffix – logia, is for the “study of”.
Wine History Project
(Photo by Cindy Lambert)
One of the original Acidometers
resting on top of its storage box
Page 63, A Few Cincinnati Eccentrics,
Cranks and Curios
An etching of Twitchell’s Acidometer
found on the inside of the storage box
(Note the misspelling of his last name)
Found in a book entitled: A Few Cincinnati Eccentrics, Cranks and Curios
Object ID: EN07
Object Name: Acidometer
Inventor: Henry Twitchell (1816-1875)
Patent date: February 15, 1870, US Patent No. 99976
Original purchase: pre-1895
Distributed by: Justinian Caire Company (1851-1945)
Obtained by WHP: 2018
An acidometer is often described as a set for measuring acidity in “musts” and wines made of grapes and other fruits, red and white. The level of the “must” acidity largely determines the flavor and storage qualities of a wine. The degree of dilution is crucial to ensure the proper conduct of fermentation. However, excessive dilution of the “must” will cause the resulting wine to be weak and unstable.
The acidometer consists of two glass cups resting on a brass stand. These are sealed on top by means of a brass cover held in place by a thumb screw and containing an internal channel connecting the two cups. This cover also holds a graduated tube located above the cup.
Twitchell’s first invention was his acidometer. It was designed to allow the owner to rapidly determine the acetic acid [H(C2H3O2)] content or strength of commercial vinegar solutions.
Also, inside of the storage box typed and glued, are directions for use as shown in the photo below.
According to my research, the acidometer was the only one of Twitchell’s inventions that he considered important enough to patent, which he did in February of 1870, and it was still being offered for sale by several laboratory supply houses well into the 20th century, along with a slightly modified version for testing the acidity of wine.
Henry Twitchell submitted both his acidometer and hydrometer for display at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition which was held from 21 September to 22 October 1870 in the original Exposition Hall.
This is a damaged colored lithograph of the original Exposition Hall
where the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1870 was held
From the Report of the General Committee which was published:
Henry Twitchell exhibits two very useful instruments – an acidometer for wine and vinegar, and a hydrometer for testing the alcoholic strength of spirits. The acidometer is a very ready, neat, and convenient apparatus for determining the percent of acid in wines and the percent of acetic acid in vinegar, with sufficient accuracy for the purposes of the wine-maker and dealer and the vinegar manufacturer. It is an inexpensive apparatus, not likely to get out of order, easily handled, and adapted to the intelligence of an ordinary workman….
This entry appeared in the 1870 Cincinnati City Directory
Twitchell’s store on West 4th Street
Henry was born in Keene, New Hampshire and lacked a formal education. At age 30 he is living in Cincinnati after years of spending his time as a roving sailor. I believe he was hired by the Cincinnati Observatory on Mount Adams, recently completed in 1843. His role at the observatory was to be a skilled and devoted amateur astronomer, personal assistant, and jack of all trades. He basically “lost himself in the stars”.
Ormsby Mitchel left Cincinnati in 1860 to head the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York. At that time, Twitchell became the Acting Director. This new position in his life was short-lived as the outbreak of the Civil War soon put the operations of the Observatory on hold. Twitchell was forced to resign the directorship in 1861 at which time he married a recent German immigrant by the name of Caroline Jaup and by 1870 had filed a patent for the acidometer and was advertising himself as an optician with a shop on West 4th Street. By 1875 Henry died of pneumonia.
Justinian Caire Company, Inc. (1851-1945)
Justinian Caire arrived in San Francisco on March 29, 1851 after 152 days on ship. He went into partnership with his friend Claude Long with whom he had traveled aboard the ship Aurelie around Cape Horn to San Francisco. They had brought with them a load of French hardware and luxury goods to be sold to the booming mining community in San Francisco. They opened Caire & Long, which was a hardware store specializing in mining equipment and imported luxury items from Europe including dolls from Germany and porcelain and perfumes sent from France by Caire’s brother Adrien.
The store first appeared in the 1852 San Francisco directory at 178 Washington Street between Montgomery and Kearney. In 1856 the partnership was dissolved, and he then partnered with his older brother. The name was soon changed to the Justinian Caire Company and operated from several different locations. In 1860, Caire became a director of the French Bank, and in 1869 he became one of ten original incorporators of the Santa Cruz Island Company which was formed in San Francisco to purchase the largest island off California’s coast, part of the Channel Islands archipelago, from William Eustace Barron.
By 1880, Justinian Caire had acquired all shares of the Santa Cruz Island Company, becoming its sole shareholder. He began his program of construction and development and island operations were diversified to include the raising of sheep and viticulture.
The San Francisco-based hardware and vintners’ supply business was incorporated in 1895. The label seen above is displayed on the inside of the cover of the box on which Twitchell’s acidometer is stored. Because of this, it is my belief that the WHP Collection object was purchased from Justinian Caire prior to the business being incorporated in 1895.
Justinian Caire died 10 December 1897 and in his will he left everything to his wife, unconditionally. Albina Caire became the sole owner of the Justinian Caire Company and the Santa Cruz Island Company. In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the business and building which was at that time located at 565 Market Street. His sons rebuilt the business at another location.
This series will continue with details and explanations about the inventors, distributors, and history behind the other enological objects in the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County Collection. The Wine History Project has a large collection of artifacts used during the 19th and 20th centuries in the vineyards and winemaking. If you wish to make a donation to our collection, please contact Cynthia Lambert at email@example.com
Stay tuned for the next article in the series when I fill you in on an ebulliometer.