Popular Science Monthly/Volume 84/April 1914/Recent Developments in Weights and Measures in the United States
|RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN WEIGHTS AND MEASURES IN THE UNITED STATES|
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 inspection department, but the individual of the middle or poorer classes had to take what was offered to him or else go to court with every prospect that he would lose his case on some technicality.
In 1902 the writer visited several of the larger cities in the State of New York for the purpose of ascertaining how efficient the inspection service was. The results were discouraging: in most places the inspectors were paid by fees for sealing the apparatus and, consequently, they were only interested in sealing the apparatus for which they could collect fees. They cared very little whether the apparatus was correct when examined, and still less whether it was properly used afterwards. New York City had ten sealers, at $1,200 each, and ten inspectors, at $1,500, under the city clerk, but most of them did little else except draw their salaries. The writer called upon one of them about ten o'clock in the morning and found him still in bed. His young child was playing with his standard weights, which he quickly took away from him when the object of the visit was explained. He frankly admitted that he owed his appointment to his political activity and that little or no services were expected of him.
The situation in New York was no worse than in other sections of the country, as we afterwards found out; it was merely typical of the conditions that existed throughout the country at that time. A couple of years later, or in 1904, the bureau conceived the plan of inviting those officers in the states who were by law charged with the custody of the state standards, to meet in Washington to study the weights and measures situation, and to ascertain what steps should be taken to insure some measure of protection to the public. The first meeting took place in January, 1905, and was, it is believed, the first meeting ever held in this country for the purpose of considering this subject. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia, Iowa—in all eight states—and the District of Columbia sent delegates. The governors of many of the other states showed interest in the matter, but stated that on account of the lack of available funds from which the expenses of the delegates could be defrayed it would be impossible to have their states represented. Nevertheless, the delegates who did attend were greatly interested in the subject and requested the bureau to arrange for similar meetings annually. Many of them did not know that they had any laws to enforce or any standards to take care of until their attention was directed to the state laws on the subject by the bureau.
Meetings have been held every year since, but the number of states represented never exceeded seventeen until 1912, when 25 states and 34 of the most important cities, including the District of Columbia, were represented. What the earlier conferences lacked in numbers, however, they made up in enthusiasm. By conferring with one another, and by discussion, the delegates learned what was needed, and in a large majority of cases they went home and attempted and in many cases succeeded in interesting their states in the subject. To aid in understanding the situation, the bureau compiled all the state and national laws on the subject of weights and measures, and also made a report on the laws and regulations governing this matter in the more important European countries. The third conference, in 1907, adopted what was termed a "Model State Law" based both upon existing state laws and the laws of other countries. This "Model Law" has since been improved and its provisions have to a large extent been incorporated in recent laws enacted by the states.
"While the conferences were an invaluable aid to what had now become a real movement to bring about more uniform and efficient laws, and while much valuable information was obtained from the delegates, as to the conditions in their states, the need of first-hand information on the conditions throughout the country was felt, and an appropriation of $10,000 was asked for and granted by Congress for the year 1908-09, for the purpose of making such an investigation. The same amount was granted for the succeeding year, and every state in the Union was visited.
The first investigations were made in cities near Washington, in order that if any unexpected difficulties should arise communication with the Bureau would be easy. The inspectors were provided with portable outfits, and made such inspections of the weighing and measuring apparatus as were ordinarily made by the local sealer. That is, they would go into a store, examine the scales, weights and measures, and weigh such packages as were found ready for delivery. At first both inspectors worked together in order to standardize their methods as far as possible; but later they traveled independently of one another and met only at intervals of two or three months when their paths happened to cross or when they were ordered back to Washington for consultation. In order to get at the actual existing conditions, we attempted to complete the investigation in any city before calling on the local sealer, where there were such, and in a few instances this was misunderstood and resented. It was the desire of the bureau to assist and cooperate with the local sealers, but it was obvious that the results found might have been greatly affected by the knowledge upon their part that a government inspector was in town. In most instances, however, the local sealers were glad to see the inspectors and assisted them in every way to get the information they were after. It ought to be said that the cordiality with which they were received was directly proportional to the efficiency of the sealers. To such as were efficient, our reports and cooperations were of the greatest aid in getting additional help and facilities, as well as in having their ordinances improved. And in other cases where there was no inspection or where the service was poor, the reports were the means of bringing the situation to the attention of the officials and of the people, which frequently resulted in the establishing of inspection departments or of improving the one already existing. In consequence of this activity the Bureau of Standards received many requests from city officials and others for assistance in bettering conditions. To assist in meeting these demands the bureau prepared a model city ordinance on weights and measures, and gave advice regarding suitable standards and apparatus, and on other important matters.
Altogether, 184 cities or towns were inspected, ranging in size from New York with four or five millions of inhabitants, to Carson City, Nevada, with about 2,200; and it will perhaps be interesting at this point to give some of the results found, which includes to July 12, 1912, when the work was practically completed.
Summary of Apparatus Examined by Inspectors of Weights and Measures, Bureau of Standards
|Total number of scales tested||10,034|
|Total number of weights tested||12,211||(partly estimated)|
|Total number of dry measures tested||5,656|
|Total number of liquid measures tested||2,407|
|Total number of stores visited||3,220|
|Total apparatus of all kinds inspected||30,500|
This shows that nearly 45 per cent, of all the scales tested were three or more per cent, in error, and when the rapidity with which a tradesman sells his wares is considered, even three per cent, is an important consideration; and when it reaches twelve, as it did in a number of cases, the loss to the purchaser is a serious one. It is not only the purchaser who suffers from the use of such apparatus, but the honest dealer is placed at a great disadvantage by reason of the fact that the possessor of such a scale can apparently undersell him and yet actually charge more for his goods. To show how apparently small errors run into money, we shall take the case of print butter. It will suffice for our purpose if we select states from different sections of the country, and base our conclusions upon what is found there. Let us take the states of Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia. The number of prints of butter of various sizes weighed in these states was 3,972, aggregating some 4,434 pounds of the commodity. The average shortage of all this butter was found slightly to exceed % oz. per pound, or 3.25 per cent According to the Bureau of Labor (now the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the normal male adult in all parts of the United States consumes about 30 pounds of butter per year. Tables issued by the same bureau show the percentage of this amount consumed by female adults, children of various ages, etc. By combining these data with the information issued by the Census Bureau as to the number of male and female adults, children, etc., we reach the conclusion that the amount consumed by the total population would be equal to the amount consumed by a number of adults represented by 80 per cent, of the population. The population of the country according to the census of 1910 is approximately 92,000,000, 80 per cent, of which is 73,600,000. Multiply this figure by 30, the number of pounds of butter consumed by one adult, and we find that the total consumption in the United States amounts to about 2,200,000,000 pounds per year. Much of this butter is sold in bulk, but there is no section of the country where print butter is not extensively sold. In the western states it is retailed in no other way. In the eastern states from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent, of it is handled in this form. It is a very conservative estimate to assume that 35 per cent, of the butter consumed is put up and delivered in this form. It may be said, then, that some 770,000,000 pounds of butter are sold yearly in print form, and since the average shortage, as mentioned above, is about 3.25 per cent., the yearly loss on butter in this form is, therefore, 25,000,000 pounds. Assuming that the average price of butter throughout the country is 33 cents per pound, the annual loss to the consumer is more than $8,250,000.
That some of the shortages found in butter are not accidental, but are the result of deliberate fraud, is proved by a comparison of the weight of the same brands of butter in Denver and Cripple Creek, Colorado. The city of Denver has an ordinance requiring that all prints of butter sold in the city must be labeled with the correct net weight of the contents, and this ordinance is being enforced by a sealer of weights and measures. The city of Cripple Creek has no ordinance and no inspector of weights and measures. Five brands of butter were found on sale in both cities, and all of them were labeled with the weight of the contents, "One Pound," in Denver, while two out of the five brands omitted the statement of weight in Cripple Creek, although the butter was still sold as pounds. The average weight of all the prints of the five brands in Denver was 15.72 oz., a shortage of 1.75 per cent., while the average weight of all the prints of these same five brands in Cripple Creek was only 15.02 ozs., a shortage of 6.12 per cent.
The same kind of losses could be shown to result from the use of false capacity measures, although it is not so easy to prove the figures, on account of the comparative roughness with which such measures are used. Such losses as these are likely to result from the use of relatively correct apparatus such as would be found in first-class stores. Aside from these and by far the larger individual losses are those resulting from the use of false weights and measures and intentional cheating either with false or comparatively correct apparatus. False apparatus is generally very crude in construction and may easily be detected upon examination, although in some cases test with standards are necessary. The users of such apparatus depend to escape detection upon the unsuspecting attitude of the purchaser and their own dexterity in handling the apparatus. Methods of cheating and false apparatus represent wide varieties. Among the different types of false measures might be mentioned those having movable or false bottoms; measures having a portion of the height cut away from either the top or bottom; measures with staves removed and the hoops and bottom adjusted accordingly; "bottomless" measures which have relatively small diameters and high sides, and which, although they contain the proper number of cubic inches, give incorrect quantities on account of not permitting of a proper heap; measures with false interiors, such as have been found in milk cans and measures for selling gasoline; and liquid measures used for dry commodities. This last practise is found in use to some extent in practically all parts of the country and results in a shortage of about 14 per cent. It is one of those practises which has come into use largely through "trade custom." The use of correct scales of high quality is not in itself a guarantee that correct amounts will be given, for it is possible for the user of such apparatus to manipulate it to his own advantage; but it is usually with the poorer apparatus and small dealers where intentional fraud is found. A type of scale which was formerly common among certain classes of dealers is the straight-face hand scale, with the graduated face made movable so that the dealer might lower or raise it so as to make the pointer indicate a lesser or greater amount than actually was the case, according as he was buying or selling. Even-arm balances of cheap construction may be made to vary considerably by placing the weights and commodity in certain positions on the pans, which is done in an apparently unintentional manner by the dealer and which would not be noticed by the customer unless he were familiar with the action of such scales. Counter-beam scales with a movable scoop and counterpoise may very easily be used fraudulently by omitting the counterpoise when the scoop is in place. These are a few of many ways in which apparatus designed to give correct results may be changed or used to give incorrect amounts.
The results of the investigations, which were furnished to the state and local officials, were an important factor in convincing the legislatures of the states that the state laws and the facilities provided for carrying them out were in most cases entirely inadequate to protect the public not only from the use of fraudulent apparatus, but also the fraudulent use of correct apparatus. The wide publicity given in some of the magazines and newspapers to the work of a few of the more progressive states also contributed to concentrate the attention of the state legislators on the necessity for a more efficient supervision of commercial weighing and measuring. Let the reasons be what they may, the past two or three years have seen the most astonishing activity in the legislatures of the states.
The original idea of the Bureau of Standards was to have the states adopt uniform laws and then to enforce them. It did not take it long, however, to learn that it would be an impossibility to get the same law passed by all the states. It was also evident that even with the same law, the enforcement by the different states would be anything but uniform. The idea now, therefore, is to secure uniformity as far as possible with such changes as are necessary to meet local conditions, and enough federal legislation to give the government the authority to regulate the matter so far as interstate commerce is concerned. It is obvious that an individual or corporation doing business in all the states should not be compelled to conform to conflicting state laws.
During the past two of three years the following legislation was enacted in the states:
Alabama passed legislation amending the law in relation to the sale of certain specified feeding stuffs. It is now required that when put up in original packages they may only be packed in certain specified sizes and the net weight must be plainly stamped on the outside of the containers. This is a good law and a step in the right direction, but it is very greatly restricted in its operation on account of the small number of commodities specified.
Arizona passed a general weights and measures law during the first session of the legislature after being admitted to the Union, which shows the importance of this subject in the minds of the legislators of that state. The law is based directly on the model law recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, many of the sections having been enacted without material change. On the whole the law is a good one, and Arizona is to be commended upon its general effectiveness and its early passage. The system adopted requires the appointment of city sealers in all cities of more than 5,000 population who are placed under the supervision of the state inspector. In cities of less than 5,000 and more than 1,000 population the work of inspection is to be done directly by the state inspector. Communities of less than 1,000 people do not seem to have been provided for in this law. In addition to the sections relating to the inspection of apparatus there are provisions requiring most package goods to be marked with the net weight or quantity of the contents, and others regulating the sale of wood, ice, hay, fresh meats, butter, etc. Later the scope of the law was broadened by requiring that the testing of water, gas and electric meters should be in charge of the city sealers and the state inspector of weights and measures. The most unsatisfactory feature of the legislation is that requiring fees to be collected from those for whom inspections are made; but fortunately the state inspector and city sealers are to be paid by salary. The ale gallon of 282 cubic inches adopted for the sale of beer and ale should not have been established, since this measure is not recognized by the federal government.
Arkansas passed somewhat similar legislation in 1911 and later enacted a law directing and requiring that the county clerks comply with the provisions of a law passed in 1894, requiring that the county clerks procure a complete set of standards and seal all weights and measures that may be presented to them for that purpose which correspond with the county standard. The law also provides that the township constable and the town or city marshal shall make annual inspections of the weights and measures in their respective jurisdictions, and stipulates a penalty of $1 a day for failure of the user of weights and measures to have his apparatus tested and sealed before the first day of September of each year. The enactment of this law shows an awakening interest on the part of Arkansas in a subject which has laid dormant in that state for many years; and while the system adopted will not attain the highest results, it is hoped that it may be only a forerunner to the establishment of a state-wide inspection of weights and measures along the most approved lines.
California has been exceedingly active in its endeavor to protect the people of the state, although it has never been represented at the National Conferences on Weights and Measures. During the visit of our inspector a proposal was made to one of the state senators that he undertake to draft a bill covering the matter. It was at once seen that this would be a difficult task on account of a provision of the constitution which forbade the appointment of a state sealer of weights and measures and made it impossible to compel the cities and counties to appoint such officers. A bill was finally drafted which was probably the best that could be passed under the constitution. Also a constitutional amendment was introduced designed to remove this disability from the state. Both the bill and the constitutional amendment were successful, and a number of counties and cities appointed sealers under this law. The bills were passed almost unanimously, the reports issued by the Bureau of Standards upon conditions as they were found to exist aiding greatly in the passage. A special election was held in October, 1911, and the weights and measures amendement and a number of other constitutional amendments were voted upon by the people. This provision was passed by an overwhelming majority. At a recent special session of the legislature a new bill was introduced containing all the provisions recommended by the conference. This bill passed the senate almost unanimously and appeared certain to become a law, but opposition developed in the assembly taking the form of amendments designed to decrease the effectiveness of the law. At a conference the senate refused to concur in the amendments and on account of the lack of time the bill failed of passage. Ten thousand copies of the reports of the Bureau of Standards, showing the necessity of inspection service and the extremely bad conditions existing were printed by the senate and with this assistance the bill became a law at the next session of the legislature.
There was also passed a net container law applicable "to food-stuffs and stuffs intended to be used or prepared for use as food for human beings "and" to any commodity intended to be eaten or drunk by human beings "; but it does not apply to commodities intended to be used solely for medicinal purposes or to a quantity of a commodity that is sold for less than eleven cents at retail. The act contains several provisions concerning the manner of marking the net weight, measure or numerical count, and fixes a minimum penalty for violation of $25 and a maximum of $500.
Colorado passed four laws on the subject of weights and measures at the 1913 session of its legislature, prior to which this subject had been a dead letter in Colorado for nearly a score of years. One of these laws gives the Public Utilities Commission power to examine and test all water, gas and electric meters; another requires persons or corporations engaged in business of mining and selling by weight to keep constantly on hand the necessary apparatus to correctly weigh their product, and provides for the annual inspection of such apparatus and makes further provision for the proper weighing of coal mined in the state; a third law requires that oleomargarine be put up in print form of one half, one, two, three, and five pound prints and in no other larger or small subdivisions, and sets forth other restrictions regarding the marking of the weight; and the fourth law provides against the false reading or manipulation of the Babcock test for milk and cream.
Connecticut passed a most excellent law including nearly all the provisions recommended by the conference for general legislation, and also requiring the net contents to be stamped on the outside of all original containers of food.
Delaware passed two laws; one requiring that a standard ton of coal shall consist of 2,240 pounds and providing a heavy penalty for violation, and the other law specifies standard cups, hampers, baskets, barrels, etc., to be used in shipping berries, fruit and produce. The latter law is not mandatory, but permits the use of other size containers when properly marked with the amount that they contain.
Florida failed to pass any general legislation requiring inspection service, but this state distinguished itself by amending its pure food law so as to require that the net contents of all original packages should be "conspicuously, legibly, and correctly stated" in terms of weight or measure, on the outside of each package.
Idaho passed a law at the last session of its legislature which establishes the customary standards and materially enlarges the powers and duties of the state sealer of weights and measures who, by a former act, is the dairy, food and sanitary inspector of the state. The present act makes it mandatory for the state sealer to test and seal or condemn all apparatus used in the state. Cities and municipalities are given the power to appoint sealers and pass ordinances not in conflict with the laws of the state. A large number of dry commodities for which legal weights are specified, must be sold only by weight; berries and small fruits, when sold in boxes, must be sold only in those containing a standard dry quart or dry pint unless information that the boxes hold less than this amount is given to the purchaser and a statement of the net contents is labeled on the box; milk and cream must be sold in standard size bottles; pails of lard must be labeled with the net weight; prints of butter containing less than 16 ounces must be labeled with the weight; and bread must be sold by weight.
Illinois passed a law which is lacking in scope and does not provide any officials whose sole duty it is to enforce the law, but its execution depends upon the Secretary of State who is ex-officio sealer of weights and measures, and the county clerks of the several counties who are county sealers of weights and measures; the former being charged with the care and custody of the state standards and the trying and proving of the county and municipal standards, and the latter with the duty of trying and proving all weights and measures, scales and beams within their respective counties when requested so to do. Fees are provided for the payment of services rendered in testing and sealing; and this is a very undesirable feature of the law, as such a system is not conducive to the attainment of the best results, and is generally believed by weights and measures officials to be wrong in principle and unsatisfactory in practise. The weights per bushel of a large number of commodities are fixed. Section 17 of the law is worthy of commendable notice, since it gives authority to weights and measures officials to seize and hold for use as evidence in any suit any short measure or faulty or incorrect weighing or measuring instrument or any commodity or article of merchandise which is of less weight or measure than represented, and the sealer is not held liable to the owner of the property seized for damages caused by such seizure where reasonable grounds existed for the action of the official. While the law is incomplete in its provisions, in fact, is entirely lacking in many which are indispensable to the attainment of the best results in weights and measures work, inadequate in the machinery provided for its enforcement, and not in keeping in progressiveness with the position of Illinois among the sister states of the Union, it is to be hoped that the start thus made will expand, and that a competent law and adequate force will soon be had.
Indiana introduced a bill to amend the law passed in 1911, and, after much debate and some amendments, it was finally enacted into law. One of the principal objects of the bill was to make it mandatory on the counties to appoint sealers of weights and measures, the original law merely being permissive in its terms. The bill, as originally introduced, required all counties with over 20,000 population and all cities of the first and second classes to appoint such officials. As finally passed, however, the only counties required to appoint sealers are those of 40,000 or more population which do not contain a city of the first, second, third, or fourth classes already having such an official. As a result of thus increasing the population requirement the number of new sealers required to be appointed was very materially reduced. There are other features of the law which are both important and excellent ones; for instance, that putting the city sealers under the municipal civil service regulations, and that requiring all commodities to be sold by weight, measure or numerical count rather than in the indefinite manner so common heretofore.
Iowa passed a general law which contains some of the provisions recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. The state dairy and food commissioner is charged with the duty of carrying into effect the provisions of the law and is required to appoint a chief inspector of weights and measures with the approval of the executive counsel, and the appointment of other inspectors is provided for. The dairy and food commissioner is also required to appoint an employee of the dairy and food commission to be state sealer of weights and measures, who is charged with the care and custody of the state standards, general supervision over the weights and measures and weighing and measuring devices of the state, and the testing and calibrating all apparatus used as standards in the state. The law fixes the weight per bushel of a large number of commodities and specifies that they shall be sold by weight unless there is a special agreement in writing to the contrary; but in the case of berries in packages of one peck or less they may be sold by the quart, pint or half pint dry measure, and all berry boxes must be of the interior capacity of one quart, one pint or half pint, dry measure. Confiscation of berry boxes not conforming to these standards is provided for. All dry commodities, weighing ten ounces or more, with few exceptions must be bought and sold by standard weight or numerical count, lineal measure, or surface measure, except where parties otherwise agree in writing.
Kansas was more or less active in passing weights and measures legislation, but its progress was very largely in a backward direction, if you will pardon the anomaly. The laws we criticize are two in number: the first specifies that flour and cornmeal when sold in sacks in amounts less than one barrel shall be sold by gross weight. The second law is no less inimical to sound legislation and good practise. This law establishes the liquid measure for the sale of berries and small fruits in baskets in place of the dry measure which has heretofore been the universal standard for these commodities. A provision of the general law which has been found to be very obnoxious is the provision requiring the collection of fees for services rendered by the sealers of weights and measures. So firmly, however, is the fee system engrafted on the state that cities passing ordinances are not allowed to abolish them, but must always make the collections demanded. We are informed by the state officials that this requirement is the greatest stumbling block in the path of establishing a really efficient inspection service and eliminating faulty weights and measures from the commerce of the state.
Three other laws were passed at the last session of the legislature: one requires railroads to provide scales for weighing live stock at all stations where as many as 50 carloads of live stock were received for shipment during each of the preceding two years; another requires the net weight to be marked on commercial feeding stuffs; and a third law requires similar marking for live stock remedies.
The law passed in Louisiana provides for the inspection of weights and measures in the city of New Orleans only. The city is divided into two inspection districts for which two inspectors are to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate, for a term of four years. Fees are to be collected for testing and sealing apparatus, but the inspectors are placed on a salary basis. Trade weights and measures are to be inspected and sealed annually, and it is made unlawful to use such apparatus without being inspected and sealed. Itinerant peddlers and hawkers using weighing and measuring instruments are required to bring them to the office of the inspector to be adjusted and sealed before using them, and to have the same adjusted and sealed annually. The law includes several provisions contained in the model law recommended by the National Conference on "Weights and Measures. Another act was passed requiring ice wagons to be equipped with weighing devices, making it unlawful to charge and collect for a greater amount of ice than actually delivered to the consumer, under penalty of fine or imprisonment.
Maine passed one general and two special laws on the subject at the last session of the legislature. The general law is in the nature of amendments to the former statutes of the state, passed principally at the 1911 session, and adds a great deal to the strength of these laws. The major portion of the changes are based on sections of the model law recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. A berry box section was included which requires all boxes for berries holding one quart or less to be of the capacities of one quart, one pint or one half pint, standard dry measure. The section specifying the weights per bushel of commodities has been extensively revised. An act relative to sealing milk bottles and jars requires these to be of standard capacities with the usual tolerances, and contains most of the other provisions of the milk bottle section of the model law.
Maryland completely revised its statutes on the subject of weights and measures and the new law provides for a complete system of county and city inspection, under the salary system. The most serious defect in this law is the omission to provide any state supervision whatever. It has been found in the past that without some state officer to assist the local sealers, the enforcement of any law is lax and unsatisfactory and it remains to be seen whether Maryland can succeed where so many states have heretofore been unsuccessful.
Massachusetts made several important additions to the statutes during the past three years. In 1911 two laws were added in relation to the cranberry barrel and other packages and to the weight of a barrel of potatoes. In 1912 the list of legal weights per bushel for fruits and vegetables was amended and amplified and it was provided that all fruits and vegetables for which a legal weight was established should be sold only by numerical count or by weight, thus eliminating the use of the dry measure for a very large number of important commodities. At the last session of the legislature a determined effort was made to nullify this law and to reintroduce the old method of selling by measure, a bill being introduced to this effect. This passed the lower house but was defeated in the senate; so the ground gained has not been lost. The second important amendment was the passage of a bill making it unlawful to sell any commodity by any other weight than the net weight of the commodity. It is believed that the sale of commodities by gross weight can be prevented, regardless of any statement to the contrary, under the terms of this law. The abuse of charging retailers and consumers for wooden cores, backsticks, heavy burlap and paper wrappings, cord, etc., at the price of the commodity itself upon the strength of a statement upon the invoice or delivery ticket that the delivery is made "gross weight," may thus be eliminated in this state by a competent enforcement of this law. Other bills were also enacted requiring the measuring by sworn city or town officials of all leather sold by measure; and the testing and sealing or condemning of all machines used in the measuring of leather. On account of the very large shoe manufacturing industries in this state this subject is of very great importance here.
Michigan enacted legislation at the last session which was based directly on the model law. Some of the sections were adopted practically intact while others were amended in important particulars, these amendments in nearly every case, however, tending to weaken the original law. The state dairy and food commissioner is, by virtue of his office, the state superintendent of weights and measures for the state. His deputy is likewise deputy state superintendent of weights and measures and all inspectors in the dairy and food department are state inspectors of weights and measures as well. The next important amendment apparently prevents the confiscation and destruction of incorrect apparatus. The provision that counties and cities appoint sealers of weights and measures is not mandatory, but they may do so "in their discretion." The penalty section has been weakened by requiring that before conviction it must be proven that short weight or measure has been "knowingly" sold or offered for sale. The difficulty of proving the state of a man's mind, even in flagrant cases of fraud is well known and need not be commented upon here.
Minnesota enacted an excellent law in 1911 providing for a state commissioner of weights and measures and a state inspection of the apparatus in commercial use. The most unfortunate provision of this law is that requiring the charging of fees for work done. The enforcement of this law should be of particular interest, since this state is among the first to abolish local sealers, putting the matter entirely in charge of state officers. Should its enforcement meet with success it may point out the proper method of inspection for some of the western states where a small number of people are scattered over a very large territory. At the last session of the legislature several valuable additions were made to the law. One section relates to the standardization of boxes used in the sale of berries, allowing containers of the capacities of one quart, one pint, one half pint or multiples of a quart, standard dry measure only; another provides for better equipment for testing railroad track scales; another gives the Warehouse Commission jurisdiction over the track scales used by common carriers and the power to require the installation of the same; it is still further provided that the Warehouse Commission may compel railroads to furnish scales for free public use in stockyards; and finally, there are general amendments to the weights and measures law of the state.
Missouri passed three laws: one authorizes cities of from 30,000 to 75,000 inhabitants to establish standards of weights and measures not inconsistent with the Federal and State standards, to provide for the inspection of all weights and measures and to prescribe the weight and quality of bread sold in the city; another gives the Public Service Commission authority to appoint inspectors of water, gas and electric meters; and a third law requires that the Commission shall appoint weighmasters at such places in the state where grain inspection and weighing may be established in conformity with the provisions of the law.
In 1911 Montana passed a general law which was on the whole a good one and contained a large number of the provisions of the model law recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, but also included certain other features which were unsatisfactory, among these being the collection of fees for the work done and the appointment of county clerks as sealers of weights and measures. At the next session of the legislature this law was repealed and reenacted with important changes; and it appears that the statute has been greatly strengthened and improved as a result. The county clerks are no longer designated sealers of weights and measures for their respective counties, but instead the state sealer is authorized to create weights and measures districts and appoint inspectors therein. The state sealer is given specific jurisdiction over the track scales of the state; a net-contents-of container section was added to the law, as well as a general net weight provision; and the penalty section has been greatly strengthened. Another very important and excellent change is the abolition of the fees formerly required to be collected by the state sealer of weights and measures and his deputies for the work performed by them.
Nebraska passed, at the last session of its legislature, a weights and measures statute which is general in its terms but which fails to provide a mandatory inspection of all weights and measures in commercial use although it appears that it is possible to obtain this object under the terms of the law. The deputy food, drug and dairy commissioner is the deputy state sealer and to him and his assistants is entrusted the state supervision provided for under the act. These officials may test weights and measures but it does not seem that they are required to do so. Fees are to be collected for the work done by them, these fees to be used in the proper enforcement of the law. No other money is appropriated for this purpose. In the counties the county clerks are designated sealers of weights and measures. They are required to test apparatus only upon request although they may do testing work at other times if they so desire. Cities or municipalities are empowered to establish inspection services but are not required to do so. On the whole it does not appear that the act is a very satisfactory one, although it may be considered as a forward step in legislation in this state.
Up until 1911 Nevada was distinguished by the fact that it was the only state having no laws whatever on the subject of weights and measures. In that year a very satisfactory law providing for a state inspection of apparatus under the supervision of the director of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station was passed, and very wide powers were given to the state officials. No local inspectors were provided for, and rightly we believe, on account of the small population of the state and its large territory. To make up for its neglect in the past, perhaps, the legislation included in its provisions that original packages must be labeled "in plain intelligible English words and figures with a correct statement of the net weight, measure or numerical count of its contents." By a subsequent amendment to section 23 of this act, the commissioner appointed by the board of control of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station was made sealer of weights and measures and charged with the duties which formerly developed upon the director of the said station.
New Hampshire amended the penalty clause of the law in force, making it much broader in its scope. They also increased the powers of the sealers to some extent, revised the schedule of legal weights per bushel, and passed an excellent berry-box section requiring that all such boxes used in the sale of specified berries shall be only of the sizes of one quart, one pint or half pint, United States standard dry measure.
New Jersey passed a very comprehensive law in 1911 establishing a state department of weights and measures, consisting of a superintendent and three deputy superintendents, and providing for the testing and sealing of apparatus by county and municipal superintendents. This law is directly based upon legislation recommended by the conference, but it was quite generally amended before its passage, to meet local conditions in the state. At the 1913 session of the legislature several amendments were passed, designed to strengthen the former law by making it possible to eliminate dealing which, while resulting in false representations and fraud, could not be attacked directly under the former provisions. Perhaps the most important of these changes is that standardizing the size of baskets used in the sale of dry commodities. Formerly all kinds of odd sizes were used and when these were sold in competition with each other it was very difficult for the purchaser to buy efficiently, since the amount to be obtained could not easily be ascertained. It is now made unlawful to manufacture, use, or offer or expose for sale any other baskets than the standard sizes mentioned in the act. Enforcement of this law should result in the elimination of misrepresentations of quantity and assure the purchaser of the quantity received. Another law gives the weights and measures officials police powers in connection with their work, and this will assist them very materially in many cases in bringing offenders of the law to justice. The penalty section has been strengthened and the procedure to be followed in the arrest and trial of offenders has been defined with great particularity. The magistrate shall hear and determine the guilt or innocence of persons summoned, in a summary way, and upon conviction a penalty may be enforced by execution against their goods and bodies without any special order of the court.
New Mexico passed a general law on the subject of weights and measures, designed to establish a state-wide inspection of the weights and measures in commercial use. The law is an inclusive one and evidently endeavors to cover the entire subject. While it has many excellent provisions the machinery provided for enforcement is very poor and it also contains many unsatisfactory and indefensible provisions. The legislation is not based on the model law of the National Conference, but does seem to have copied provisions from a number of other states. Some of the provisions which are considered poor ones will be mentioned briefly. The only state weights and measures official provided for is the secretary of state, ex-officio, and his only duties appear to be the providing and testing of county standards. The sheriffs of the counties are designated county weighmasters, these officials being allowed to appoint deputies to enforce the weights and measures laws. Fees are to be collected for all work done and these fees are to be kept by the officials for their own use, no other compensation for the performance of the duties specified being provided. The only state standards required to be procured and kept are weights of specified sizes, although in a later section "all weights and measures accepted and used by the government of the United States at the present time, except herein provided" are standardized. The only commercial apparatus required to be tested and sealed are scales; weights, measures of capacity and length and measuring apparatus of all kinds being entirely neglected in this connection. All berries sold in boxes must be sold in boxes containing a standard liquid quart or liquid pint, and boxes of all other sizes must be labeled with their net contents. New Mexico has evidently followed the lead of Kansas in this matter, although such a provision is one of the most regrettable ones which could be included in a state law.
New York continued the good work which it commenced several years ago, and added to its excellent code of laws a very strong coal law, and a law making the possession or use of any false apparatus presumptive evidence of the knowledge of the user of its falsity. A law was recently passed requiring that all meat, meat products and butter shall be sold by weight, and that other commodities shall be sold by weight, standard measure or by numerical count, and that this amount must be marked on a label or tag attached thereto. The law further fixed the sizes of containers for vegetables, produce and fruit and provided that when these were sold in other than standard sizes the amount contained in these packages should be marked or branded conspicuously in terms of standard dry measure on the outside of the package. And it is also specified that when commodities are sold in containers of other sizes than those fixed by law the net quantity of the contents of each container, or a statement that the specified weight includes the container, the weight of which shall be plainly and conspicuously marked, branded or otherwise indicated on the outside or top thereof or a tag attached thereto, in terms of weight, measure or numerical count. During the 1913 session another law was passed standardizing the dimensions of four-eight-and twenty-pound baskets for use in the sale of grapes and provides that grape baskets of all other sizes must bear a statement of the net quantity of their contents in terms of weight, measure or numerical count. The section of the present code of laws relating to the marking of bales of hay and straw was strengthened by an amendment.
North Dakota took an important forward step by requiring that lard put up in pails or other containers should not only be marked with the net weight of the contents, but should also be put up in one, three or five-pound net-weight containers or some whole multiple of these numbers, and not any fractions thereof. This legislation was taken into the courts and we are nnder the impression that it has recently been declared constitutional. A law requiring bread to be put up in standard size loaves or labeled with their weight was also put upon the statute books. A section of the code conferring certain powers upon cities was amended so as to permit the establishment of city scales and certain other powers, which now appear to be exercised by the state, were withdrawn from the cities.
Ohio, in 1910, placed the inspection of weights and measures under the direction of the state dairy and food commissioner, and the law gives him the authority to use the services of any persons employed under his department in the enforcement of the laws relating to weights and measures. The county auditors were made county sealers of weights and measures and are required to compare all weights and measures brought to them for the purpose with copies of standards in his possession, to see that the state laws relating to weights and measures are strictly enforced, and to assist generally in the prosecution of all violations of such laws. Mayors of cities and villages may appoint sealers of weights and measures. Several other laws relating to weights and measures were passed or amended at the 1910 session of the legislature. In 1911 several changes were made in the laws. The most important was the section making it necessary to sell a large number of dry commodities specified by avoirdupois weight or numerical count, unless all parties concerned agreed upon some other method of sale. This legislation is most important since it is the first statute passed by any distinctively eastern state attempting to eliminate the always-faulty dry measure from commercial use.
At the 1913 session Ohio strengthened the law requiring fruits and vegetables to be sold exclusively by numerical count or weight and has thereby made it possible to enforce its provisions competently. In the former law these commodities might be sold only as mentioned above, "unless by the agreement of all contracting parties." This phrase made it extremely difficult to obtain convictions even in cases of willful violation of the intent of the law. The amendment referred to requires these special agreements to be in writing and hereafter it would seem to be an easy matter to bring all offenders against the spirit of the law to justice. The section requiring berries and other small fruits to be sold by a bushel or fractional part thereof has been amended to require the subdivision of the bushel to be an aliquot part thereof. Dry measures have been standardized as to the diameter and depth to be required. The state sealer has been given the power "to make, publish and enforce such rules and regulations as may be necessary to the prompt and effective enforcement of the weights and measures laws of this state." A special section requiring the testing of the computing part of computing scales has been added; and finally, the word "knowingly" has been stricken out of the penalty section. All of these latter amendments seem to be excellent ones and do much to strengthen the weights and measures law of the state.
Oklahoma during the years 1910-1911 revised the list of legal weights per bushel, required certain commercial feeding stuffs packed in sacks to bear a statement of the net weight of the contents, made some changes in the coal mining law, and standardized the weight of flour and meal put up in barrels and sacks and required the weight to be branded on the same. As in the case of Kansas, flour in cloth sacks may be branded with the gross instead of the net weight.
Oregon passed one general and four special laws relating to weights and measures at the 1913 session of its legislature. The general law establishes a state department of weights and measures under which the state treasurer (who it appears from the context is subsequently referred to as the state sealer) is required to appoint a deputy state sealer and has authority to appoint such assistant and clerical aid as may be necessary to place in practical operation the provisions of the act. He is further authorized to procure such standards and other equipment as may be necessary for the proper execution of the duties under the law and to procure and use only such standards as have been passed upon as correct by the National Bureau of Standards and to have the state standards tested by that bureau once in ten years. The county courts of the several counties are required to appoint competent sealers for such term and at such compensation as they may decide; but such sealers may be removed from office by the deputy state sealer for incompetency, or neglect of duty. The county sealer is required to visit at least once in each year every place of business where weights and measures are kept for the purposes of trade. The law places no restriction upon the rights of cities to enforce ordinances providing for the sealing of weights and measures or regulating the sale of commodities, provided such ordinances are not in conflict with the standard adopted by the state. It is made unlawful in selling any commodity by weight or measure to include the weight or measure of anything other than the weight or measure of the commodity itself. The law, while lacking in some respects, contains a number of excellent provisions and may in general be said to be a good one. The four special laws referred to above, provide as follows: One establishes a weight of 100 pounds, inclusive of the weight of the sack, as the standard weight of a sack of potatoes, unless otherwise specified by contract; another stipulates that in selling farm or range products where no special agreement is made to the contrary, no deduction shall be made for the weight of the sack containing the products; another refers to the sale of butter, and requires among other things that this product when offered for sale in rolls, prints or squares, shall be plainly marked "Sixteen ounces, full weight," or "Thirty-two ounces, full weight," and shall contain the number of ounces so marked; and the fourth law amends a former act and places all track scales used by railroad companies under the jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission, the Commission being required to test and inspect such scales from time to time, the cost of which is chargeable to the owner of the scale.
Pennsylvania passed a law in 1911 establishing a state bureau of standards, under control of an officer to be known as "Chief of the Bureau of Standards," with very limited powers. The counties and cities were authorized, but not required, to appoint inspectors of weights and measures and the powers and duties of these officers were specified. This law did not require any compulsory inspection service, either state or local, and was inadequate on this account. At the 1913 session the above-mentioned law was amended in several particulars which has greatly strengthened it, and it now becomes possible to secure far greater results than formerly. The permissive character of the act relating to appointment of weights and measures officials is now made mandatory, and requires that mayors of cities of the second and third classes and the board of county commissioners of the several counties shall appoint one or more competent persons as inspectors of weights and measures. In cities of the first class, the inspectors are to be appointed by the board of county commissioners of the county in which such city is located rather than by the mayor of the city. It is provided in the law as amended that the county and city inspectors shall hold office during good behavior, and shall not be removed, discharged, or reduced in pay or position, except for inefficiency, incapacity, conduct unbecoming employees, or other just cause, and until said officials shall have been furnished with a written statement of the charges against them, and shall have been given reasonable time to make written answer thereto. This provision practically means civil service, and puts the inspectors beyond removal for political reasons, and permits them to become proficient in their work and to remain in office, thus rendering to the community better and more efficient service than would be had with constant change of inspectors at intervals of one or two years. Another act was passed relating to the sale of commodities, which specifies the manner of sale of certain kinds of products, and attempts to prevent misrepresentations and the use of fraudulent apparatus. This act also fixes the number of pounds per bushel for a large number of commodities in section 6, and in the following section, requires the net weight, measure, or numerical count to be marked on packages; but it is not mentioned in this section what commodities or classes of products in package form are required to be so marked. It might be inferred from the context that reference was made to the commodities mentioned in the preceding section, but such a construction does not appear to be a reasonable one.
South Carolina passed legislation fixing a standard weight per bushel for a very large number of dry commodities and also providing for standard barrels for various purposes. It is made unlawful to sell any of the products mentioned "except in strict accordance with the standard weights and measures" so provided, and means of enforcement and penalties for violations are included in the act.
South Dakota has not enacted any general laws, but in 1911 amended the food and drugs act to require the true net weight to be branded on all food sold in original packages "in clear and distinct English words in black type on a white background, said type to be in size uniform with that used to name the brand or producer." At the 1913 session of the legislature a law was passed establishing the bushel, and subdivisions, as the standard for all dry commodities, and fixing the weights per bushel of a large number of products. It is also made unlawful in the sale of grain to take a greater amount as dockage for dirt, foul seed or other mixture than is actually present.
Tennessee passed a general law on weights and measures, making the state pure food and drug inspector the state superintendent of weights and measures, and designating his assistant and deputy inspectors as assistant sealers, with like powers and authority as the county and city sealers. The president of the University of Tennessee is made the state sealer of weights and measures, and among other duties, is charged in conjunction with the state superintendent, with the care and custody of the standards and the inspection and testing of the standards of the several cities and counties, and the testing and calibrating, when presented for the purpose, of apparatus used as standards by any citizen, firm, corporation or educational institution of the state. The state superintendent or his deputies are required to inspect the work of the county and city sealers once in two years, and for this purpose have the same powers and authority as the county and city sealers. The law relating to the appointment of county and city sealers is only permissive in its terms, and presents one of the weakest features of the act. The powers granted to, and the duties required of, the county sealers (and likewise of the city sealers and assistant and deputy inspectors of the pure food and drug department) follow very closely those contained in the model law recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, and are potentialities of far-reaching possibilities and capable of accomplishing a vast amount of good in the state if the county and city authorities avail themselves of the opportunities afforded by the law. Otherwise, it does not appear that much can be accomplished, unless the state superintendent is able to have a considerable portion of the time of his assistant and deputy inspectors devoted to the inspection of weights and measures, the appropriation allowed for use in the inspection of weights and measures being only one thousand dollars. The state superintendent, in conjunction with the state sealer, is required to make rules and regulations for the enforcement of the act and for the guidance of all city and county sealers.
Texas passed an act requiring ginners of cotton to mark the weight of the bagging and ties in which the cotton is wrapped upon each bale of cotton ginned by them, in figures at least four inches in height. It was required that the net weight of the contents be stamped upon bags, barrels and packages of fertilizers.
Utah in 1911 passed a law general in its terms but very incomplete in its provisions, making the state food and dairy commissioner ex-officio state sealer of weights and measures and giving him the power and making it his duty to try and prove all apparatus in use in the state, except in cities having a city sealer. No compulsory local supervision is provided for. Three other laws were passed at the 1913 session of the legislature, the most important one being a net weight law with reference to food in package form, which follows very closely the wording of the amendment to the national law on this subject. The other two laws have reference to the collection of freight charges on cars of coal and the weighing of coal in carload lots; the object of the laws is to ascertain the net weight of the coal, it being provided among other things that the cars shall be weighed before and after being loaded with coal.
Vermont enacted a general law in 1910 providing for a state supervision of weights and measures and authorizing but not making obligatory local supervision, also. This legislation was very satisfactory as far as it went. Subsequently it was amended and strengthened in several particulars. The state department of weights and measures now has specific jurisdiction over the scales used by common carriers; is empowered to seize, for use as evidence, commodities, packages or other articles offered for sale in a manner contrary to law; and is required to pay particular attention to the weights and measures used in creameries. The intentional misrepresentation by the buyer of the amount of commodity purchased is made a punishable offense; and the section relating to the legal weights per bushel was greatly amplified and strengthened.
In 1911 Washington enacted legislation requiring railroad companies to have track scales, and to furnish, jointly, a test car or other device for the use of the Railroad Commission in testing track scales, the railroad companies being required to move the car free of charge. In 1913 there was enacted legislation providing for a state-wide inspection of the weights and measures in commercial use, this law containing most of the provisions of the model law recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. The state inspectors are put in the department of the secretary of state, this official being made ex-officio superintendent of weights and measures. The actual work will be taken care of by a deputy superintendent and one inspector. City sealers are required to be appointed in all cities of the first class, while in the counties the auditors are made sealers, ex-officio. As in the case of the state, a deputy sealer is required to be appointed in each county, having the same powers as the auditor in respect to this Act, and upon these officials will fall the duty of seeing to the enforcement of the law. In addition to the sections taken from the model law, the manner of sale of butter, bread, potatoes in sacks, berries in boxes, coal in sacks, milk in bottles, and vinegar, ice, and wood are provided for. In regulating the scale of the above-mentioned articles in packages, standard sizes are specified which do not have to be marked with the net contents, but when any other size than the standard is packed, the net contents in terms of weight or measure must be stated on the outside of the package in plain English words and figures.
Wisconsin enacted an excellent general law on the subject, providing for a state supervision of weights and measures under the direction of the state dairy and food commissioner, who is made ex-officio state superintendent of weights and measures, and for a local inspection in charge of city sealers in all cities of five thousand inhabitants or more. This law contains nearly all the provisions endorsed by the National Conference on Weights and Measures.
Several amendments were made to this law in 1913. Among the most important of these is one conferring greater authority upon the state superintendent of weights and measures concerning the appointment and compensation of employees, and another requiring food in package form to be marked with a statement of the net weight, measure or numerical count.
Wyoming has not enacted any general legislation on the subject, but a law relating to food was passed in 1911 requiring that "if in package form, the net quantity of contents be plainly and conspicuously marked, on the outside of the package in terms of weight, measure or numerical count." The law in reference to the measurement of hay in stacks was amended, as was also the law in relation to the weighing of coal in mines. In 1913 a law was passed relating to the inspection and analysis of illuminating oils (including gasoline for the purposes of the act) which provides that the absence of the net weight properly labeled on the packages shall be prima facie evidence that they are misbranded.
Altogether forty-one states passed legislation of some sort directly referring to the subject of weights and measures. The statutes in twenty-four of these were general in their nature and authorized or required state-wide local inspection service under the general supervision of a state department of weights and measures; state-wide inspection service under officers of the state without any local inspection service; or local inspection without any supervision by the state. Twenty-eight states passed legislation requiring the weight or measure to be branded on the outside of some original package goods when sold in the original package or required the package or container to be of certain sizes. Of these sixteen referred to some few specified commodities, while twelve were general in their terms. This record shows the remarkable interest that has developed in the last few years and clearly points out the necessity for federal legislation to take care of interstate transactions.
The above list does not show all the activity by any means. A large number of states introduced legislation of some sort but were unsuccessful in enacting tbem into laws. In a number of these states the idea was new and the bills did not receive sufficient consideration on that account. In others they failed through lack of time at the end of the legislative session, or for other reasons.
There is another phase of the subject that has not been touched upon that is perhaps more important than the supervision of the weighing and measuring apparatus of the tradesman, because of the fact that the amount involved in any transaction is not stated, and that is the sale of goods in sealed packages without any statement as to the quantity in the package.
Prior to the passage of the Food and Drugs Act, it was customary to mark such packages with some whole number of pounds or ounces. Most readers remember the two-pound packages of cereals, and the three and five-pound cans of lard extensively advertised and sold some years ago. It is possible that the weights marked upon them were originally correct, but it is certain that they were not so in 1906, when the Food and Drugs Act went into operation, because the packers immediately stopped marking such packages, on account of the provision in that act which requires that if any weight or measure be stamped upon any package it must be the correct weight or measure. The influences behind the Food and Drugs Bill attempted to have this section read so that the correct weight or measure of the contents should be stamped upon the outside of the packages, but the packers had enough influence to have it modified. The result was that the packer was at liberty to reduce the size of his package as often as he deemed it advisable, and without the knowledge of the purchaser; and this has been done in numerous instances.
The passage of laws by a number of the states, requiring the marking of the net weight, measure or numerical count upon the outside of articles put up in sealed packages, and the delegation of authority by such laws to state officials to promulgate rules and regulations concerning the enforcement of the laws soon convinced the manufacturers and packers that it would be much better to comply with the terms of a national law than to attempt to meet the demands of a number of state laws, which would not only present a multiplicity of regulations but would undoubtedly be conflicting in some instances. Accordingly when the Gould bill was introduced in Congress to amend the Food and Drugs Act so as to require the net weight, measure or numerical count to be plainly and conspicuously marked on the outside of food packages there was not sufficient opposition to prevent its passage, and after some changes it became a law March 3, 1913, and was one of the last acts signed by President Taft.
Aside from the weights and measures provision contained in the Food and Drugs Act, the amendment of March 3 is the second and most important step taken by Congress to exercise authority over weights and measures in interstate commerce, which it has ample power to do under the express authority conferred upon it hy the constitution. The assumption of federal authority in this instance points out the proper method for the solution of other weights and measures problems; and the enforcement of this amendment, it is believed, will present convincing evidence of the judiciousness and necessity of federal regulation over matters of an interstate nature, or where the exercise of authority by the individual states would be conflicting, or unnecessarily cumbersome on account of its multiplicity.
The proper regulation of types of weighing and measuring apparatus is one of the problems referred to which could be regulated by the federal government more scientifically and better than by the individual states and with more economy to the manufacturers of apparatus. Much apparatus now sold is faulty in design, false in its indications, and would not be permitted in any other important country in the world. A number of the states have already adopted specifications which the manufacturers are required to follow in making the apparatus sold in those states. They are in many cases imperfectly drawn, and on account of their lack of agreement with one another, the manufacturers are required to change their construction for some states, thus increasing the cost without accomplishing any useful purpose. The need of proper supervision over types of weighing and measuring apparatus has been felt for some time by weights and measures officials and is now beginning to be appreciated by manufacturers. The effect of such supervision would be to eliminate from use types of apparatus which facilitate the perpetration of fraud, and poor apparatus of cheap construction; and would in general standardize apparatus and practises. Bills have been introduced in Congress from time to time to confer upon the Bureau of Standards the authority to pass upon types of weighing and measuring apparatus, but no law has yet been passed.
Another problem of far-reaching effect upon the interstate commerce of the country is the proper supervision of railroad track scales. This matter was recently brought to the attention of Congress by the Bureau of Standards, and its request for an appropriation of $25,000, which became available July 1, 1913, was granted. Out of this appropriation a special test weight car has been provided with which a number of railroad track scales have already been tested, disclosing large discrepancies and plainly showing the need of supervision. The purposes of this car are to provide, as far as practicable, official standards heretofore lacking for the testing and standardizing of railroad track, elevator and other scales, and to obtain data for determining what tests are adequate to insure reliable adjustment of such scales, and upon which may be based specifications for their construction and operation.