The gasogene: an explosive Victorian device

The museum occasionally compiles reports on specific artifacts deemed to have particular merit.Today we are featuring the gasogene.

The gasogene is a Victorian era device used to create carbonated water, sparkling wines, lemonades and "other saccharine drinks." They provided an at-home solution for creating seltzer and no self-respecting Victorian gentleman's cabinet would be complete without one.

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After the turn of the last century these home devices were replaced by bottles of seltzer delivered from increasingly ubiquitous soda shops.

In order to use the gasogene, the bottom globe was filled with water or any other beverage the user wished to carbonate, and a small amount of tartaric acid and bi-carbonate of soda was added to the second smaller globe.

The device was then gently tipped on its side so that a small amount of liquid from the bottom globe would pour into the upper chamber. This would then start a chemical reaction where the acid and soda would turn into carbonic acid gas. This gas, having no way to escape from the upper chamber except by a tube leading into the lower reservoir, would force itself into the lower chamber and carbonate the liquid within.

The wicker sleeve around the gasogene not only served as ornamentation but also as a safety precaution. It was not uncommon for gasogenes to burst under pressure and the wicker sleeve helped to prevent glass fragments from being scattered about!

Today gasogenes are seen as highly collectible, and we are fortunate to have one. Interested visitors to the Pioneer Home Museum will find our gasogene on display in the kitchen area of the house.

© Virden Empire-Advance