Artifact Corner: Victorian Kitchen Scale

Hi everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at an unassuming piece that hangs in our kitchen, right next to our stove, a scale. This is a Frary’s Improved Circular Spring Balance Scale, and it was used to weigh anything up to 30lbs, and was accurate to the ounce. When making large quantities of food, sometime recipes called for pounds of ingredients, and therefore, you need a scale. So this would have been a very useful item to have in the kitchen. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of scales.

The oldest scales archaeologists have found come from the Indus River Valley, near present day Pakistan, and date to around 2,000 BCE. These scale were different from our spring based scale, this was a balance scale. The original form of a balance scale consisted of a beam with a fulcrum at its center. To determine the mass of the object, a combination of reference masses was hung on one end of the beam while the object of unknown mass was hung on the other end. The primary materials that were used as the weights were stone and metal. Carved stones bearing marks denoting mass and the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for gold have been discovered from around 1,878 BCE, which suggests that Egyptian merchants had been using an established system of mass measurement to catalog gold shipments or gold mine yields. In China, the earliest weighing balance excavated was from a tomb dating back to the 3rd to 4th century BC in Changsha, Hunan. The balance was made of wood and used bronze masses.

Balance scales continued to be the predominant way to measure weight until 1770. British balance maker Richard Salter invented the spring scale, which meant weighing balance no longer relied on counter weights. The spring scale used the effects of gravity to calculate weight, as defined in Hooke’s Law which determines the displacement of force on the spring. Spring scales came into wide usage in the United Kingdom after 1840 when R. W. Winfield developed the candlestick scale for weighing letters and packages, required after the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post. The scientific plausibility of spring scales led to them becoming the most commonly used form of commercial and domestic scale and they are still commonplace today due to their low cost.

Having a scale in the kitchen for food preparation was so vital, and no Victorian kitchen would be complete without it. Our scale is in good condition, and still works very well to this day! This is a beautiful piece and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
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