M975.61.255.1-7 | Scale

1850-1875, 19th century
40 x 23 cm
Gift of Mr. Charles deVolpi
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Scale (2)
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Keys to History

The scale was an indispensable measuring instrument for merchants in the markets.

This non-graduated equal-arm balance is made up of four elements, the beam (or horizontal rod), two pans, chains and four weights. No doubt this model, easy to dismantle and hang up, was appreciated by merchants in the markets who have to set up and empty theirs stalls every morning and evening.

The indispensable accessories for non-graduated balances are the weights, which are calibrated using primary standards - a set of weights of exemplary accuracy, used by a country to monitor the system of weights and measures in its territory. Canada ordered its first set of primary standards from British manufacturers a few years after Confederation.

  • What

    The weights that go with this equal-arm scale are called "monetiform," i.e., they are shaped like a flat disc or large coin.

  • Where

    The inscription "Imperial Standard Cannon" that can be seen on the weights indicates that they conform to the British Imperial System. Established in1824, this system was one of the first to have a scientific basis.

  • When

    The equal-arm balance is the most ancient known type of scale. It has survived since Antiquity to the present.

  • Who

    This type of scale was probably used by a grocer.