What is it? Game 42

This week's collaboration with What is it? Blog brings us this strange object (from a 100-year-old kit). Can you tell us what it is for?

Place your guess in the comment section. You can guess as many time as you'd like, but please don't post URLs - let others play! No prize this week, you're playing for fun and bragging rights.

For more clues, including larger pics of the object and the kit it comes in, visit What is it? Blog.

Good luck!

Update 10/26/07 - the answer is:
This kit was used by U.S. Internal Revenue agents to determine the alcohol content of distilled liquor, which would be poured into the container and tested with the hydrometers.


Congrats to Chris W #5 who got it right!

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Excellent guesses! Chris #5 got it right first (especially when Florent broke the no URL rule!)

Funniest is joo #8 with this gem: "rectal thermometer from hell."

And as always, Randall put in the most creative answer!
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This is a phrygonometer, used by 19th century detectives to detect truthfulness in oral statements. However in 1891, it was revealed as a hoax. The inventor, a Phineas Q. Cantrell, confessed that he had invented the gadget to fool his wife into believing his explanations for his late night activities. He would return from a poker game and under strict questioning from his spouse, would tell his story while squeezing the 'lie detector's' 'detecto-bulb' and register that his cover story was truthful. She in turn insisted he market the device, and being backind into a corner successfully sold it to several police agencies in the tristate area. After several convictions (squeezing the bulb too hard would register as a 'lie') and resulting death sentences, Phineas broke down and confessed it to be a hoax. The entire embarrassing truth was covered up and oddly enough, he was awarded the Philmore medal for his contribution to law enforcement. He died in 1922.
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