U.S. Standard Liquid Measures Based on the Gallon, a Non-metric Measure

This elegant set consists of five brass liquid measures with handles. A stamp on the lip of the smallest reads: B.S. No. 333, and another stamp on the side reads: U.S. STANDARD (/) 1/16 GALLON. The next largest measure reads on the lip: B.S. No. 334, and on the side: U.S. STANDARD (/) 1/8 GALLON. The middle-sized measure reads on the lip: B.S. No. 335, and on the side: U.S. STANDARD (/) 1/4 GALLON. The fourth measure reads on the lip: B.S. No. 336, and on the side: U.S. STANDARD (/) 1/2 GALLON. The largest measure reads on the lip: B.S. No. 458, and on the side: U.S. STANDARD (/) GALLON. The seal of the National Bureau of Standards also is stamped on the four smaller measures.
The United States Constitution explicitly grants the federal government the power to regulate weights and measures. Most colonies used weights and measures based on British custom, and the first U.S. standard measures were in units such as pounds, yards, and gallons. The first standards, which were weights, were delivered to the states in 1838. By 1856, Alexander Dallas Bache could report that the Office of Weights and Measures he headed had completed full sets of weights, measures and balances for the states. Customhouses also were being equipped, with that task completed in about 1866.
These five liquid measures appear to be examples of these standards. However, they are numbered with “B.S.” numbers, and in four cases stamped with the seal of the Bureau of Standards. The Bureau was not established until 1901. The objects came to the Smithsonian in 1929.
Rexmond C. Cochrane, Measures for Progress: A History of the National Bureau of Standards, [Washington, DC]: National Bureau of Standards, U. S. Department of Commerce, 1966, esp. pp. 20-47.
Currently not on view
Object Name
liquid, measures, U.S. standard
liquid, measures, u.s. standard
date made
ca 1860
United States Office of Weights and Measures
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
inside #333: 5.2 cm x 10.4 cm; 2 1/16 in x 4 1/8 in
inside #458: 27 cm x 13.3 cm; 10 5/8 in x 5 1/4 in
inside #334: 6.6 cm x 13.3 cm; 2 5/8 in x 5 1/4 in
inside #336: 21.1 cm x 10.1 cm; 8 5/16 in x 4 in
inside #335: 9 cm x 16.8 cm; 3 9/16 in x 6 5/8 in
overall; one gallon: 11 3/8 in x 10 1/2 in x 6 3/4 in; 28.8925 cm x 26.67 cm x 17.145 cm
overall; half gallon: 9 in x 8 in x 5 1/4 in; 22.86 cm x 20.32 cm x 13.335 cm
overall; quarter gallon: 7 1/4 in x 7 in x 4 1/2 in; 18.415 cm x 17.78 cm x 11.43 cm
overall; eighth gallon: 5 3/4 in x 5 1/4 in x 3 5/8 in; 14.605 cm x 13.335 cm x 9.2075 cm
overall; sixteenth gallon: 4 5/8 in x 4 1/2 in x 3 in; 11.7475 cm x 11.43 cm x 7.62 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Measuring & Mapping
Metric System
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Metric System
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Standards
Additional Media

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