This year, Palmer Instruments Inc., Asheville, N.C., celebrates its 175th anniversary. Started in 1836 as the L.T. Wells and J. Foster Mathematical and Philosophical Instrument Makers in Cincinnati, Ohio, the company became the James Foster Jr. Co. in 1852.

The need to improve kerosene safety in the 1850s led to the development of the Foster automatic oil tester, a closed-cup design instrument considered by many to be the first thermometer manufactured in the United States.

Becoming the R.P. Palmer Co. in 1872, the firm specialized in mechanical temperature and pressure devices. The firm joined forces with digital temperature specialist Wahl Instruments in 1997 to become Palmer Wahl.