Search the Encyclopedia
Artist/Maker: Young & Son
Created: c. 1790
Materials: brass, with wooden case
Dimensions: case: 17.6 x 8.7 x 3.2 (6 15/15 x 3 7/16 x 1 1/4 in.); pans: D; 5.1 (2 in.); balance: L: 12.4 (4 7/8 in.)
Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Elizabeth Martin Randolph, widow of Meriwether Lewis Randolph; by gift to Bettie M. Donelson; by purchase to Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Horn; by bequest to Ruth Horn Crownover; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1992
Accession Number: 1992-9-1
Historical Notes: The place and date of Jefferson's purchase of these portable scales cannot be determined. A practically identical set, without case, also survives, as does a folding pocket money scale.
Jefferson's Memorandum Books contain surprisingly few references to the purchase of scales or steelyards. They and other records are full, however, of signs of the daily use weighing devices. On the plantation there was constant weighing of wheat and cornmeal, hogs and beef, or nails made in the nailery. Jefferson himself use smaller scales to weigh a silver coffee pot used in payment, his newborn daughter Lucy, a new pair of silk stockings, and the amount of sugar he added to his coffee. Coins had to be frequently weighed to test their value, and Jefferson's specifications for a traveling box include "money scales" and "money steelyards" among the contents.