Home & Living

Country Living Appraises A 1940s Drunkometer Diagram: What Is It Worth?

It's called a 'Drunkometer' -- enough said.

We're very excited to syndicate one of our favorite columns, 'What Is It? What Is It Worth?' from one of our favorite magazines, Country Living. All text and images below are provided by Country Living. Get ready to be surprised!

"I found this wall chart at an estate sale for $2. What can you tell me about the gadget it depicts?" - L.T., Chicago

country living what its worth

1940s Drunkometer Diagram

Professional appraiser Helaine Fendelman identifies and evaluates your collectibles and antiques.


It may seem like something out of Animal House, but the Drunkometer is no joke. The precursor to today's Breathalyzer, this tool—the first portable apparatus to accurately measure blood-alcohol content—was developed by Indiana biochemist Dr. Rolla N. Harger in 1931. Indiana state troopers put the device to use on New Year's Eve 1938: Suspects inflated a balloon, and the captured air was released into the contraption, where it mixed with a chemical solution. The officer then plugged a measurement from the machine into a math equation to determine the level of intoxication—a complicated system to explain in court, so prosecutors used charts like this to talk juries through the process. Things got simpler in 1954 with the introduction of the Breathalyzer (it produces a direct readout, no calculations required). This diagram's value really depends on the buyer and his or her preference for detailed graphics versus more colorful designs. But collectors drawn to midcentury science-related charts would surely toast this fun secondhand score.

What's It Worth: $300

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A 1950s Mickey Mouse Toy

What Is It? What Is It Worth?

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