In 1830, Congress asked the Secretary of the Treasury to study the weights and measures used in the nation’s custom houses. The Secretary, in turn, gave the job to Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler (1770-1843), a Swiss immigrant well-trained in science and mathematics. When Hassler reported substantial discrepancies in the various standards then in use, the Secretary asked him to design new standards and methods of making them. This project later became the Office of Weights and Measures, and it produced standards of length, volume and weight for the several states and territories as well as for the custom houses.
This large and precise balance was designed to Hassler’s specifications, built under his direction, and used for many years in the Office of Weights and Measures. Its beam measures 42-inches between the knife edges.
Ref: Ferd. Rod. Hassler, Comparison of Weights and Measures of Length and Capacity, Reported to the Senate of the United States (Washington, 1832); this is Senate Doc. 214, 22nd Cong., 1st Sess.
Florian Cajori, (Boston, 1929).
Arthur Frazier, “United States Standards of Weights and Measures,” Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology 40 (1978).
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