1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hygrometer
HYGROMETER (Gr. υγρός, moist, μέτρον, a measure), an instrument for measuring the absolute or relative amount of moisture in the atmosphere; an instrument which only qualitatively determines changes in the humidity is termed a "hygroscope." The earlier instruments generally depended for their action on the contraction or extension of substances when exposed to varying degrees of moisture; catgut, hair, twisted cords and wooden laths, all of which contract with an increase in the humidity and vice versa, being the most favoured materials. The familiar "weather house" exemplifies this property. This toy consists of a house provided with two doors, through which either a man or woman appears according as the weather is about to be wet or fine. This action is effected by fixing a catgut thread to the base on which the figures are mounted, in such a manner that contraction of the thread rotates the figures so that the man appears and extension so that the woman appears.
Many of the early forms are described in C. Hutton, Math. and Phil. Dictionary (1815). The modern instruments, which utilize other principles, are described in METEOROLOGY: II. Methods and Apparatus.