Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/349

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345
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN WEIGHTS AND MEASURES IN THE UNITED STATES
By LOUIS A. FISCHER
BUREAU OF STANDARDS

DOUBTLESS many of the readers have noticed in the newspapers and magazines during the past few years articles on false weights and measures and their effect upon the high cost of living; and have wondered why false weights and measures should exist. A more intimate knowledge of the subject will, it is believed, increase that wonder rather than diminish it, for does not the government maintain standards of weights and measures and do not the statute books of the states contain laws purporting to enforce their use? While almost any one will admit the necessity and the importance of regulation if his attention is called to the matter, it is a singular fact that it is only recently that any general interest has been manifested in the subject, or that there has been any organized movement to improve and enforce the laws in regard to weights and measures.

The founders of our government evidently realized the necessity of uniform standards or they would hardly have provided for it in the Constitution in the same clause that gives Congress the power to coin money and to regulate the value thereof. Under that authority the government coins all money, and enforces the severest penalties for counterfeiting. On the other hand, it has enacted practically no weights and measures legislation, but has left the question entirely to the states.

Even the pound, yard, gallon and bushel in common use have never been adopted by Congress, but owe their use to the fact that the government uses them in the collection of revenue and to the fact that they have voluntarily been adopted by the states.

Shortly after the establishment of the Bureau of Standards, complaints began to be received from individuals who felt that they were not receiving all that they were entitled to, and inquiring what they could do about it. There being no federal laws, the bureau could only advise them to look to their state or local authorities for assistance, although it was well known that none of the states at that time had an adequate system of inspection. It soon became evident that the states would not act of their volition, and equally evident that Congress felt no responsibility in the matter. The complaints were scattered, and those suffering were unorganized and consequently without influence. The railroads, corporations and organized industries, like the grain industry, were able to establish and maintain their own weighing or