2018 Featured Article Series –

February 2018




William Brown Jarvis was one of the lesser known early inventors of a “motometer”-type automobile radiator-mounted engine temperature indicating gauge.


Because of the type of engine “temperature indicating” gauge-device that William created and his W B Jarvis Manufacturing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan manufactured, sold and distributed an argument could be made that questions its proper labeling as a “motometer” in the original sense of the BOYCE MOTO-METER.


William B. Jarvis was born on July 8, 1867 in Ontario, Canada.  At the age of 25 he managed a bicycle and sporting goods department for the Studley and Barclay, where he had previously worked as a bookkeeper. During this time William was a noted bicycle racer, bicycling being a major form of speed racing.  Three years later he became a junior partner in the firm and the company name changed to “Studley and Jarvis” where upon in 1898 he became a majority partner in the firm of “Jarvis and Daniels” until 1901 when the company was ultimately re-organized into the “W. B. Jarvis Company.


William Jarvis formed numerous partnerships to satisfy his business interests. In 1902, he formed a partnership with the late A. B. Richmond under the name of Richmond and Jarvis with an agency for the one-cylinder Rambler car.  This company became the Richmond-Jarvis-Vandecar Company the following year.  With this company, William negotiated personally with Henry Ford and James Couzens for the Ford agency and for one carload of ten $500 Fords and was given the exclusive Ford agency in Michigan outside of Wayne County.”


In September of 1921 William’s company now known as “Jarvis & Jarvis after partnering with his son Lewis made public announcement their intention to sell an automobile radiator-mounted “Water Indicator,” according to Motor Age journal.

Jarvis & Jarvis were not the only company to invent a float-based auto radiator-mounted type water level indicating motometer as Lyle Van Duzer of Los Angeles, California had filed for patent on August 12th, 1921 for his “Liquid Level Indicator” a month before Jarvis’ initial product release announcement.


On July 23, 1923 William filed a divided patent for a “Radiator Cap” and “Liquid Level Indicator.”  On September 4, 1928 William received a U. S. Patent for his “Radiator Cap” that featured a cast or machine bolt designed to position his ultimate indicating device in the desired visual orientation to the attached vehicle’s front end.  While his later patent issued (May 14, 1929) “Liquid Level Indicator” was focused on the auto water coolant level gauge-device itself.

The W. B. Jarvis “Liquid Level Indicator” initially featured a circular indicator frame design then around late 1928 the frame design was changed to an octagonal shape.

The above image reveals the basic copper tube and float-valve mechanism used to articulate the wire- linked red colored metal water level indicating semaphore.

Though not particularly successful as far as motometer sales went in comparison to the BOYCE

MOTO-METER the Jarvis Water Level Indicator had its proponents who primarily wanted a very simple to understand engine temperature indicating-like gauge-device.

Ultimately the Jarvis and Jarvis Company was acquired by the Doehler Die-Casting Company of Toledo, Ohio.

In 1995 the company was acquired by Harvard Industries to continue producing transmission housing castings for the Ford Motors Company but by 1998 was forced to close its doors amidst quality and mounting debt issues.

William Brown Jarvis passed away on October 26, 1943 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Jarvis Water Level Indicator New Product Announcement on MotometerCentral™.com
Jarvis Water Level Indicator Patent Drawing on MotometerCentral™.com
Jarvis Water Level Indicator Internal Components



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