2018 Featured Article Series –

March/April 2018




Some motometer collecting enthusiasts are somewhat familiar with the Brand name Moore Semaphore Indicator device but less so with its namesake inventor, Oscar Moore.


Born on August 10th, 1890 Oscar Willis Moore in Kennett, Missouri a very small, low population rural-agricultural town that boasts Grammy Award-Winning Singer Songwriter Sheryl Crowe as its more recent most famous (former) resident.


Moore would go on to seek his fortune in the burgeoning automotive industry accessory manufacturing sector, particularly that of motor heat indicators.


Motor Heat Indicators, or motometers, by the early 1920 were capturing the imagination of the automobile owning, driving and desiring public and were then becoming “must have” auto accessories.  Many aspiring auto industry product inventors, entrepreneurs and manufacturing companies wanted in on this seemingly lucrative market occupied and dominated by one major proponent, the Moto-Meter Company of Long Island City, New York.


The Moto-Meter Company virtually invented the motor heat indicator/radiator thermometer market since 1912 when in late December they introduced the BOYCE MOTO-METER to the automotive industry.  Harrison H. Boyce inventor of the BOYCE MOTO-METER was quite keen to protect the market advantage that his gauge-device afforded his product and associated company, which included bringing lawsuit against those who dared to use his engine coolant temperature monitoring principle.  Harrison Boyce successfully sued a number of companies for violating his patented principle making it very difficult for would be competitors to enter the marketplace.


In 1921, Oscar Moore sought to deploy a temperature indicating means that used a temperature reactive stripe to move a green and red-colored panel back and forth across a viewing window in its dial plate to indicate very basic temperature range conditions of “Normal” and/or “Overheating” in contrast to the BOYCE MOTO-METER’s use of a thermometer instrument.


Oscar Moore filed for patent in September 1921 and received registration notification in September of 1923 for his basic reactive stripe use mechanism and additionally for the temperature indicating panel and articulation mechanisms.


















In March of 1922 Oscar received a patent for his rotated rounded square temperature indicator that came to define his “Moore Motor Semaphore Indicator” that was manufactured and marketed by his Moore Semaphoric Indicator Corporation of Chicago, Illinois.



















Ultimately three model versions of the “Moore Semaphore” were marketed, a “Master” to be retailed at $9.00 each, a “Standard” to be sold at $7.50 each and a “Junior” to be sold at $3.50 each.  The company touted the gauge devices as resistant to “jars and shocks of the roughest roads;” possessing the “Highest quality” nickel plating; and, model versions designed specifically for “water pump” and “thermo-syphon” cooling system method auto engines.





Today very few Moore Semaphore automobile radiator-mounted engine temperature indicators have survived in working or pristine condition.  Most Moore Semaphore Indicators are of the “Junior” model version or type, in a partially disassembled condition rendering them inoperable with little of its original nickel plate finish remaining where applicable.  No proof of a difference in surviving example engine cooling system method models known to exist.  Most surviving examples are of the later patent type.

Moore Semaphoric Indicator Corp. sought to achieve greater motometer accessory market penetration by releasing model examples that featured automobile manufacture logos, such as Buick, Jewett, Nash, Overland and Studebaker, etc.; as well as, a medical profession caduceus symbol dial plate versions in an effort to keep pace with the personalized BOYCE MOTO-METER versions available through the Moto-Meter Company.







In 1924 as Art Deco genre motometers, like the Moto-Meter Company’s BOYCE MOTO-METER  “Radio” –meter and subsequent ANCO MOTOTECTOR series, began making their entrance into the motometer marketplace, Oscar Moore sought to capitalize upon this obvious growing trend towards greater ornamentation with his “Radiator Cap and Indicator" design and product commercially marketed and sold as the “Red Flash.”


Only one of these Moore Semaphoric Indicator Corp. Red Flash type indicators is known to currently exist.

The Red Flash operates by indicating engine coolant temperature via a heat reactive spring activated red metal panel that rises from its center radiator cap flat position to occupy the center space of its upper frame area.

None of these Moore Semaphoric Indicator devices truly sold in numbers large enough to be considered a widespread commercial or financial success, especially in comparison to the immensely popular and successful BOYCE MOTO-METER.

Quality, material longevity and durability seems to be a relatively common problem with surviving examples as shown here.






Oscar Willis Moore passed away on November 9th, 1956 at 66 years of age in Hornersville, Missouri —where he was life-long resident— due to what amounted to a heart attack in layperson’s terms.  He left behind a wife, named Myrtle.  Unfortunately not much else is publically known of this man and motometer inventor; what became of Moore Semaphoric Indicator Corporation or exactly how many Moore Semaphoric Indicators of any type (or in total) were either manufactured, sold or exist today.


Oscar Willis Moore is included in this March edition of MotometerCentral™’s featured article series on “Motometer Making Men” as he took his shot at significantly penetrating the motometer automotive industry motometer market and because his radiator-mounted engine temperature indicating gauge-device examples have survived nearly one hundred years after their market introduction.



SINCE 1912

© 2019  Francis G. Clax, MotometerCentral™, MotometerCentral Publishing™ and Spirit Communications Ltd.™