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U.S Yout,

9- 16-1929

FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS RELATING TO WEIGHTS

AND MEASURES

INTRODUCTION

Section VIII of Article I of the Constitution of the United States authorizes Congress to “fix the standard of weights and measures, but notwithstanding that the importance of the subject was repeatedly urged by Washington, Adams, and Jefferson in their messages to Congress, no general legislation has ever been enacted by that body in regard to the weights and measures now in common use. At the time of the American Revolution the weights and measures in common use were supposed to be identical with those then in use in England and the standards were of English origin. Most of them had been procured from time to time by the Colonies from Great Britain, and although it was well known that there were variations in those of the same denomination, it was not until 1830 that the matter received attention from Congress. At this time an investigation of the weights and measures in use in the various customhouses was ordered by a resolution of the Senate. As a result of this investigation the avoirdupois pound, the yard of 36 inches, the wine gallon of 231 cubic inches, and the Winchester bushel of 2,150.42 cubic inches were adopted by the Treasury Department, and the construction of copies of the standards thus established was immediately undertaken in order to supply the customhouses with uniform weights and measures.

In 1836 a joint resolution of Congress directed the Secretary of the Treasury to deliver to the governor of each State in the Union a complete set of all the weights and measures adopted as standards by that department, to the end that a uniform standard of weights and measures might be established throughout the United States. At the time of the passage of the act of July 28, 1866, legalizing the use of the metric system in the United States, Congress, by a joint resolution, directed that the Secretary of the Treasury furnish to each State, to be delivered to the governor thereof, one set of standard weights and measures of the metric system for the use of the States, respectively. Some 15 years later Congress further directed that the Secretary of the Treasury cause a complete set of all the weights and measures adopted as standards to be delivered to the governor of each State in the Union for the use of agricultural colleges in the States, respectively, which had received a grant of lands from the United States.

Nearly all of the States and land-grant colleges have been supplied with complete sets of standards in accordance with the resosutions mentioned, and in the case of many States those supplied

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have been adopted by legislative action as the standards of such States. The fundamental standards of our customary system—the pound, yard, gallon, and bushel-are therefore, in general, uniform throughout the Union. The practice, however, in regard to the use of the two units last mentioned and their subdivisions differs materially. In some States the gallon of certain commodities is defined as a definite number of pounds. For instance, 11 pounds of sorghum molasses is a legal gallon in Indiana and Mississippi and 12 pounds in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee; 612 pounds of kerosene in Kansas and 71/2 pounds of linseed oil in Ohio constitute a legal gallon. The volumes defined by these legal weights do not accord with the true yolume of the gallon.

In many of the States the legal bushel of certain commodities is specified in pounds. In the cases of a few commodities the weight established is uniform throughout the country, but in the large majority of cases two or more different weights, which may vary widely from each other, are fixed for the same commodity. Special bushels have also been legally established in many States for particular products such as the charcoal bushel, which in Connecticut is 2,748 cubic inches, in Colorado, 2,500 cubic inches, and in Pennsylvania, 2,571 cubic inches. In Vermont “ one bushel and threequarters of a peck are deemed a bushel of lime or ashes," while a lime bushel in Ohio is 2,688 cubic inches. In Pennsylvania the coke bushel is 2,648 cubic inches, while in Missouri it is 2,680 cubic inches. Some States require, furthermore, “struck measure,” others “heaped measure," the heap sometimes being required to be high as the article will admit," and elsewhere “as high as may be without special effort or design,” and in still other cases, as in Connecticut, the heaped bushel is definitely fixed as 2,564 cubic inches. The ton of coal is in most States fixed at 2,000 pounds, while two or three specify 2,240 pounds.

Such diversity as is illustrated above causes confusion in the commerce among the different States, and a remedy is highly desirable. It is the general opinion among weights and measures officials that the use of the bushel as a measure of quantity should be discontinued and that commodities commonly sold by this unit should be sold by weight. Several States have enacted legislation to this end within the past few years.

A law passed by Congress in 1866 made the use of the metric system lawful throughout the United States in all commercial transactions and established tables for use in the construction of contracts, and in all legal proceedings, for expressing in customary weights and measures, the weights and measures of the metric system.

Until 1893 the British imperial yard and pound were recognized by the Treasury Department as the standards of the United States, but in this year it was decided that greater stability and higher accuracy would be obtained by accepting the international meter and kilogram as the fundamental standards of the United States, by reason of the superior character of the copies of these standards which had shortly before this time been received from the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, in which organization the United States Government had been officially participating since 1870. The yard was, therefore, defined as a certain fraction of the meter and the pound as a certain fraction of the kilogram, the

3600 values adopted being 1 yard

3937

meter, and 1 pound avoirdu1 pois

kilogram. This action did not in any way alter 2.20462234 the values of our customary weights and measures, but simply fixed them in terms of standards that represented the highest development of metrology.

On July 1, 1913, the Bureau of Standards recognized the international metric carat of 200 milligrams as the unit of weight for diamonds and other precious stones, and thereafter used this value for the purpose of certification of all carat weights submitted to the bureau for test. On the same date the Treasury Department began the use of this unit in the customs service for the levying of import duties on precious stones, and it was also put into commercial use in the United States by practically all of the dealers in gems and precious stones.

During the past 15 years great advancement has been made in weights and measures legislation, both from the standpoint of securing laws providing greater protection to the merchants and the purchasing public and from the standpoint of uniformity in the laws of the various States. Among the reasons for this it may be stated that there has been an awakening on the part of the purchasing public to the losses sustained by the use in trade of false or incorrect weights and measures, and manufacturers and shippers have come to realize that unfair competition is bound to result from the lack of proper weights and measures supervision in the sale of commodities.

The present compilation of weights and measures laws is the third one published by the Bureau of Standards, the first having been issued in 1904 and the second in 1912. This compilation revises and brings up to date the latter publication, Bureau of Standards Miscellaneous Publication No. 20, State and National Laws Concerning the Weights and Measures of the United States, which, on account of the large number of laws enacted subsequent to its issuance has become entirely out of date. There have been added certain regulations and other material relating to weights and measures, which it is believed will be of value and interest in this connection.

The enactment of weights and measures legislation has in general been left by Congress to the several States, but in a few instances Congress has deemed it expedient and necessary for the better conduct of the large and ever-increasing commerce among the States to enact certain laws affecting weights and measures in interstate commerce. This legislation has a very important bearing upon the commercial life of the Nation in bringing about uniformity, efficiency, and economy in the distribution of supplies.

The laws and material pertinent thereto contained in the present publication are not published as a whole elsewhere, and much of the material is quite inaccessible to those concerned. There has been a continuing demand for a revised compilation, and it is believed that

* See Circular No. 43, The Metric Carat, p. 3.

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