A fascinating and exquisite luxury of Victorian America, this incredible Automatic Cobalt Fountain was created by James Walker Tufts of Boston and was used to diffuse perfumed water to create an olfactory and visually-pleasing experience. With no motor, weights or other hidden mechanisms, this Tufts Automatic Cobalt Fountain operates via the principles of hydrostatics, relying solely on the air pressure generated by the weight of the water in the basin above to produce the spray.
The fountain is filled by pouring water into the basin, and the pressure would move the water from the raised globe through an intersecting valve though the tube-like fountain frame and shoot out of the nozzle at the center of the basin. The water would then drain down through the frame and into the lower globe below. When filled to capacity, the process takes about 15 minutes and easily restarts when the globes are rotated.
This particular Tufts model, known as "Style No. 1" features wonderful cobalt blue glass globes and basin, with a frame of silver-plated bronze resting atop a base of beautiful marble. According to the Tufts' product catalog, this model retailed for $20, or the equivalent to an estimated three weeks of wages for the average laborer of the era. The fountain was intended to be showcased in the parlors, libraries and drawing rooms of grand homes, or prominently displayed in the storefronts of pharmacies and apothecaries where one could purchase the essential oils to perfume their own automatic fountain. Common oils used in the Tufts' fountain included lemon, jasmine, bergamot, lavender, verbena, rose and citronella.