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Secretary of the Treasury be, and he hereby is, directed to cause a complete set of all weights and measures adopted as standards and now either made or in progress of manufacture for the use of the several customhouses, and for other purposes, to be delivered to the governor of each State in the Union, or such person as he may appoint, for the use of the States, respectively, to the end that a uniform standard of weights and measures may be established throughout the United States.

The Joint Resolution of 1836 was supplemented in 1838 by legislation which directed the Secretary of the Treasury to furnish balances to the States. This provision was added as one of numerous amend. ments to an appropriation act, the original purpose of which was "to provide for the support of the Military Academy of the United States for the year 1838", as follows:

Public 53, 25th Congress, 2nd Session, July 7, 1838.

were large and some small, the average value of the various denominations agreed fairly well with the weights and measures in use in Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. Mr. McLane further stated: “It is, nevertheless, a serious evil, inasmuch as it produces inequalities in the duties levied at the different ports; and thus contravenes the spirit of the Constitution, which declares that all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States. It is believed, however, that this department has full authority to correct the evil, by causing uniform and accurate weights and measures, and authentic standards, to be supplied to all custom houses."

The Secretary of the Treasury gave a broad interpretation to the resolution of May 29, 1830, as is indicated by ihe statement above, and instructed Mr. Hassler to proceed to the construction of the weights and measures to be supplied to the customhouses in order to assure uniformity in the customs. Preliminary to the construction of these weights and measures, it was necessary to select the units and prepare the standards. It was decided that the yard of 36 inches, the avoirdupois pound of 7,000 grains, the gallon of 231 cubic inches, and the bushel of 2,150.12 inches be adopted.

The brass bar made by Troughton of London for the Coast and Geodetic Survey and brought to this country by Hassler in 1813, was adopted as the standard of length. This bar was 82 inches long, and the standard yard selected was the one comprised between the twenty-seventh and the sixty-third inch marks. This was believed equal to the English standard yard at 62° Fahrenheit, although direct comparison with that standard had not been made.

The avoirdupois pound was derived from the troy pound of the mint. For this purpose, the avoirdupois pound was assumed to be 7000/5760 pounds troy.

The units of capacity selected were closer than any other to the average in use at that time in the United States. They were the wine gallon of 231 cubic inches and the Winchester bushel of 2,150.42 cubic inches.

After the adoption of the units referred to above, the work of constructing the weights and measures for the customhouses was begun in earnest. Hassler made progress reports to the Secretary of the Treasury over a period of several years. His letters are full of interesting statements about the work in general, and the difficulties encountered in the performance of so large and responsible a task are clearly shown.

While Hassler and his assistants were working at feverish haste to complete the construction of the standards, a memorial was sent to Congress from businessmen of Philadelphia urging Congress to establish a standard of weights and measures. The memorial was referred to a committee of which Representative Horace Binny was chairman. Representative Binny reported from that committee on February 17, 1835. He reviewed previous action of Congress on this subject, and read extracts from Hassler's reports which he hoped would make Congress realize the confused state of affairs in commercial transactions. He offered the following resolution:

Resolved, That it is highly expedient that the Treasury Department should complete, with as little delay as practicable, the fabrication of standards of weights and measures, for the supply of the different customhouses of the United States, upon the principles set forth in the reports of the Secretary of the Treasury to the Senate, on March 3, 1831, and June 20, 1832.

Representative Binny had obtained several letters and prog. ress reports of the work which Hassler had written to the Secretary of the Treasury. These were read and made a part of the records of Congress, together with the above resolution.

The Binny resolution was not adopted as offered, but in the following year there was adopted a Joint Resolution directing distribution of Standards to the States, as follows: Joint Resolution of Congress, June 14, 1836.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury cause to be made, under the superintendence of Mr. Hassler, one standard balance for each State, and when completed that he cause them to be delivered to the respective Governors for the use of the respective States. Under this authority not one balance, but three balances were prepared for each State.

The Joint Resolution of 1836 and the law of 1838 were supplemented by two other Joint Resolutions, in 1866 and 1881, authorizing further distribution of standards, as follows: Joint Resolution of Congress, July 27, 1866.

Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to 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. Joint Resolution of Congress, March 3, 1881.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, directed to 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 have received a grant of lands from the United States, and also one set of the same for the use of the Smithsonian Institution: Provided, That the cost of each set shall not exceed two hundred dollars, and a sum sufficient to carry out the provisions of this resolution is hereby appropriated out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appro


The practical effect of the distribution of standards and balances as authorized by the Joint Resolutions of 1836, 1866, and 1881, and the law of 1838 has been the adoption by States as State standards, of the standards so furnished. As a consequence there is uniformity of standards throughout the country as a result of Congressional action but without any broad and specific Congressional requirement to that effect.

In 1866 the Congress passed a law legalizing the use throughout the United States of the metric system of weights and measures and including tables of legal equivalents for metric units in terms of units of weight and measure customarily in use in the United States. This important statute is commonly referred to in weights and measures circles as the "Law of 1866"; its provisions are reported on page 10 under the citation, U. S. Code, 1946 Ed., Title 15, Ch. 6, Metric System.

The United States was one of the signatories to a treaty known as the “Metric Convention”, signed in 1875, under the terms of which the International Bureau of Weights and Measures was created and its duties prescribed. A translation of the convention, and of appendix No. 1 containing the regulations appended thereto, as amended, follows: Metric Convention: Signed at Paris, May 20, 1875; ratification

advised by the Senate, May 15, 1878; ratified by the President, May 28, 1878; ratifications exchanged, August 2, 1878; proclaimed, September 27, 1878. As amended by the convention signed at Sevres, October 6, 1921; ratification advised by the Senate, January 5, 1923; ratified by the President, September 19, 1923; ratification of the United States, deposited with the Government of the French Republic, October 24, 1923; proclaimed, October 27, 1923.

His Excellency the President of the United States of America, His Majesty the Emperor of Germany, His Majesty the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, His Majesty the King of the Belgians, His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, His Excellency the President of the Argentine Confederation, His Majesty the King of Denmark, His Majesty the King of Spain, His Excellency the President of the French Republic, His Majesty the King of Italy, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Peru, His Majesty the King of Portugal and the Argarves, His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, His Majesty the King of Sweden and Norway, His Excellency the President of the Swiss Confederation, His Majesty the Emperor of the Ottomans, and His Excellency the President of the Republic of Venezuela, desiring international uniformity and precision in standards of weight and measure, have resolved to conclude a convention to this effect, and have named as their plenipotentiaries the following:

Who, after having exhibited their full powers, which were found to be in good and due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article 1. The high contracting parties engage to establish and maintain, at their common expense, a scientific and permanent international bureau of weights and measures, the location of which shall be at Paris.

Art. 2. The French Government shall take all the necessary measures to facilitate the purchase, or, if expedient, the construction, of a building which shall be especially devoted to this purpose, subject to the conditions stated in the regulations which are subjoined to this convention.

Art. 3. The operation of the international bureau shall be under the exclusive direction and supervision of an interna. tional committee of weights and measures, which latter shall be under the control of a general conference for weights and measures, to be composed of the delegates of all the contract. ing Governments.

Art. 4. The general conference for weights and measures shall be presided over by the president for the time being of the Paris Academy of Sciences.

Art. 5. The organization of the bureau, as well as the formation and the powers of the international committee, and of the general conference for weights and measures, are established by the regulations subjoined to this convention.

Art. 6. The international bureau of weights and measures shall be charged with the following duties:

First. All comparisons and verifications of the new prototypes of the meter and kilogram.

Second. The custody of the international prototypes. Third. The periodical comparison of the national standards with the international prototypes and with their test copies, as well as comparisons of the standard thermometers.

Fourth. The comparison of the prototypes with the fundamental standards of nonmetrical weights and measures used in different countries for scientific purposes.

Fifth. The sealing and comparison of geodesic measuring bars.

Sixth. The comparison of standards and scales of precision, the verification of which may be requested by governments or by scientific societies, or even by constructors or men of science.

Art. 7. After the committee shall have proceeded with the work of coordinating the measures relative to electric units and when the general conference shall have so decided by a unani. mous vote, the bureau will have charge of the establishment and keeping of the standards of the electric units and their test copies and also of comparing with those standards, the national or other standards of precision.

The bureau is also charged with the duty of making the determinations relative to physical constants, a more accurate knowledge of which may be useful in increasing precision and further insuring uniformity in the provinces to which the above-mentioned units belong (article 6 and first paragraph of article 7).

It is finally charged with the duty of coordinating similar determinations effected in other institutions.

Art. 8. The international prototypes and standards and also their test copies shall be deposited in the bureau; access to the deposit shall be solely reserved for the international committee.

Art. 9. The entire expense of the construction and outfit of the international bureau of weights and measures, together with the annual cost of its maintenance and the expenses of the committee, shall be defrayed by contributions from the contracting states, the amount of which shall be computed in proportion to the actual population of each.

Art. 10. The amounts representing the contributions of each of the contracting States shall be paid at the beginning of each year, through the ministry of foreign affairs of France, into the Caisse de dépöts et consignations at Paris, whence they may be drawn as occasion may require, upon the order of the director of the bureau.

Art. 11. Those Governments which may take advantage of the privilege, open to every State, of acceding to this convention shall be required to pay a contribution, the amount of which shall be fixed by the committee on the basis established in article 9, and which shall be devoted to the improvement of the scientific apparatus of the bureau.

Art. 12. The high contracting parties reserve to themselves the power of introducing into the present convention, by common consent, any modifications the propriety of which may have been shown by experience.

Art. 13. At the expiration of twelve years this convention may be abrogated by any one of the high contracting parties, so far as it is concerned.

Any Government which may avail itself of the right of terminating this convention, so far as it is concerned, shall be required to give notice of its intentions one year in advance, and by so doing shall renounce all rights of joint ownership in the international prototypes and in the bureau. Appendix No. 1, Regulations.

Article 1. The international bureau of weights and measures shall be established in a special building, possessing all the necessary safeguards of stillness and stability.

It shall comprise, in addition to the vault, which shall be devoted to the safe-keeping of the prototypes, rooms for mount. ing the comparators and balances; a laboratory, a library, a room for the archives, workrooms for the employés, and lodg. ings for the watchmen and attendants.

Art. 2. It shall be the duty of the international committee to acquire and fit up the aforesaid building and to set in operation the work for which it was designed. In case of the committee's inability to obtain a suitable building one shall be built under its directions and in accordance with its plans.

Art. 3. The French Government shall, at the request of the international committee, take the necessary measures to cause the bureau to be recognized as an establishment of public utility.

Art. 4. The international committee shall cause the necessary instruments to be constructed, such as comparators for the standards of line and end measures, apparatus for the determination of absolute dilatations, balances for weighing in air and in vacuo, comparators for geodetic measuring bars, etc.

Art. 5. The entire expense incurred in the purchase or construction of the building, and in the purchase and placing of the instruments and apparatus, shall not exceed 400,000 francs.

Art. 6. The annual appropriation for the international bureau consists of two parts, one of which is fixed, the other complementary.

The fixed part is, in principle, 250,000 francs, but on the unanimous vote of the committee may be raised to 300,000 francs. It is borne by all the States and autonomous colonies that adhered to the meter convention before the sixth general conference.

The complementary part is made up of contributions from the States and autonomous colonies that joined the convention after the aforesaid general conference. The committee is charged with the duty of drawing up on the motion of the director the annual budget, but without exceeding the amount computed in accordance with the provisions of the two paragraphs above. The budget is made known every year by means of a special financial report to the Governments of the high contracting parties.

If the committee find it necessary either to increase beyond 300,000 francs the fixed part of the annual appropriation or to modify the computation of the contributions as determined by article 20 of these regulations, it should lay the matter before the Governments so as to enable them to issue in good time the needed instructions to their delegates to the next general conference in order that the said conference may deliberate to good purpose. The decision will stand only in the case that no opposition shall have been expressed before or in the conference by any of the contracting States.

If the Staté should let three years go without paying its contribution, that contribution shall be divided among the other States proportionally to their own contribution. The additional sum thus paid by the States to make up the whole of the appropriation of the bureau shall be regarded as an advance to the delinquent State and shall be reimbursed to them if that State should make good its arrears. The advantages and prerogatives conferred by adhering to the meter convention are suspended in the case of States that have been delinquent three years.

After three more years the delinquent State shall be expelled from the convention and the reckoning of the contributions restored in accordance with the provisions of article 20 of these regulations.

Art. 7. The general conference mentioned in article 3 of this convention shall be at Paris, upon the summons of the international committee, at least once every six years.

It shall be its duty to discuss and initiate measures necessary for the dissemination and improvement of the metrical system, and to pass upon such new fundamental metrological determinations as may have been made during the time when it was not in session. It shall receive the report of the international committee concerning the work that has been accomplished, and shall replace one-half of the international committee by secret ballot.

The voting in the general conference shall be by States; each State shall be entitled to one vote.

Each of the members of the international committee shall be entitled to a seat at the meetings of the conference. They may at the same time be delegates of their Governments.

Art. 8. The international committee mentioned at article 3 of the convention shall be composed of 18 members all from different States.

At the time of the renewal by halves of the international committee the outgoing members shall be first those who may have been provisionally elected to fill vacancies between two sessions of the conference; the others will be drawn by lot. Outgoing members may be reelected.

Art. 9. The international committee organizes itself by electing by its own secret vote its chairman and secretary. Those appointments are notified to the Governments of the high contracting parties.

The chairman and the secretary of the committee and the director of the bureau must belong to different countries.

Once organized, the committee can not hold other elections or make other appointments until three months shall have elapsed after the notice of a vacancy calling for a vote shall have been given to all the members.

Art. 10. The international committee directs all the metrological works that the high contracting parties shall decide to have carried on jointly.

It is also charged with the duty of seeing to the conservation of the international prototypes and standards.

It may, lastly, institute the cooperation of specialists in questions of metrology and coordinate the results of their work.

Art. 11. The committee shall meet at least once in two years.

Art. 12. The balloting in the committee is by a majority vote; in case of a tie vote the chairman has the casting vote.

Decisions are only valid if the members present are at least one half of the elected members forming the committee.

Subject to that condition absent members have a right to delegate their votes to present members who must prove that they have been so delegated. This also applies to appointments by secret ballot.

The director of the bureau is a nonvoting member of the committee.

Art. 13. During the interval occurring between two sessions the committee shall have the right to discuss questions by correspondence.

In such cases, in order that its resolutions may be considered to have been adopted in due form, it shall be necessary for all the members of the committee to have been called upon to express their opinions.

Art. 14. The international committee for weights and measures shall provisionally fill such vacancies as may occur in it; these elections shall take place by correspondence, each of the members being called upon to take part therein.

Art. 15. The international committee will draw up a detailed set of regulations for the organization and work of the bureau and will fix the dues to be paid for the extraordinary works provided by articles 6 and 7 of the convention.

Those dues will be applied to improving the scientific equipment of the bureau. A certain amount may be drawn annually for the retirement fund from the total dues collected by the bureau.

Art. 16. All communications from the international committee to the Governments of the high contracting parties shall take place through the diplomatic representatives of such countries at Paris.

For all matters requiring the attention of the French authorities, the committees shall have recourse to the ministry of foreign affairs of France.

Art. 17. A regulation drawn up by the committee will determine the maximum staff for each category of the personnel of the bureau. The director and his assistants shall be elected by secret ballot by the international committee. Other appointments shall be notified to the Governments of the high contracting parties. The director will appoint the other members of the personnel within the bounds laid by the regulation men. tioned in the first paragraph above.

Art. 18. The director of the bureau shall have access to the place where the international prototypes are deposited only in pursuance of a resolution of the committee and in the presence of at least one of its members. The place of deposit of the prototype shall be opened only by means of three keys, one of which shall be in the possession of the director of archives given into the custody of the Office of Standard Weights and Measures of the Coast' and Geodetic Survey of the Treasury Department.

In 1893 a ruling of fundamental importance with respect to standards was made by T. C. Mendenhall, the Superintendent of Standard Weights and Measures. This ruling, which subsequently came to be known as the "Mendenhall Order”, was approved April 5, 1893, by the Secretary of the Treasury; its essential part is as follows: Bulletin No. 26, "Fundamental Standards of Length and Mass",

United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, Treasury Depart. ment, April 5, 1893.

the Office of Weights and Measures, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, will in the future, regard the International Prototype Metre and Kilogramme as fundamental standards, and the customary units, the yard and the pound, will be derived therefrom in accordance with the Act of July 28, 1866. Bulletin No. 26 also carried a "Note", as follows:

NOTE.-Reference to the Act of 1866, results in the establishment of the following:

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of France, the second in that of the chairman of the com. mittee, and the third in that of the director of the bureau.

The standards of the class of national prototypes alone shall be used for the ordinary comparing work of the bureau.

Art. 19. The director of the bureau shall annually furnish to the committee: First, a financial report concerning the accounts of the preceding year, which shall be examined, and if found correct, a certificate to that effect shall be given him; second, a report on the condition of the apparatus; third, a general report concerning the work accomplished during the course of the year just closed.

The international committee shall make to each of the Governments of the high contracting parties an annual report concerning all its scientific, technical, and administrative operations, and concerning those of the bureau. The chairman of the committee shall make a report to the general conference concerning the work that has been accomplished since its last session.

The reports and publications of the committee shall be in the French language. They shall be printed and furnished to the Governments of the high contracting parties.

Art. 20. The scale of contributions spoken of in article 9 of the convention is established for its fixed part on the basis of the appropriation referred to in article 6 of the present regulations and of the population; the normal contribution of each State can not be less than five to a thousand nor more than 15 per cent of the whole appropriation, regardless of the population. In order to establish that scale, it shall first be found which are the States that are in the conditions required for the minimum and maximum and the remainder of the quota shall be distributed among the other States in the direct ratio of their population.

The quota thus reckoned stands for the whole time included between two consecutive general conferences and can only be modified in the meanwhile in the following cases:

(a) If one of the adhering States allows three successive years to pass without making its payments;

(b) When, on the contrary, a State which had been previously delinquent for more than three years pays up its arrears, and the occasion arises to return to the other Gov. ernments the advances made by them.

The complementary contribution is computed on the same basis of population and is like that which the States that have long belonged to the convention pay under the same conditions.

If after adhering to the convention a State declares it would like to extend the benefits thereof to one or more of its colonies that are not autonomous, the number of the population of the said colonies would be added to that of the State in reckoning the scale of contributions.

When a colony that is recognized as autonomous shall desire to adhere to the convention, it will be regarded with respect to its admission into the convention and as the mother country may decide, either as a dependency of that mother country or as a contracting State.

Art. 21. The expense of constructing the international prototypes and the standards and test copies which are to accompany them shall be defrayed by the high contracting parties in accordance with the scale fixed in the foregoing article.

The amounts to be paid for the comparison and verification of standards required by States not represented at this convention shall be regulated by the committee in conformity with the rates fixed in virtue of article 15 of the regulations.

Art. 22. These regulations shall have the same force and value as the convention to which they are annexed.*

On January 2, 1890, "meter No. 27" and "kilogram No. 20”, being copies of the international prototype meter and kilogram preserved at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, were opened at the White House and accepted by President Harrison as national standards. Duplicates of these, being "meter No. 21" and "kilogram No. 4”, were received later in the same year. These standards were


A more precise value of the English pound avoirdupois is




differing from the above by ab one part in one hundred thousand, but the equation established by law is sufficiently accurate for all ordinary conversions.

As already stated, in work of high precision the kilogramme is now all but universally used and no conversion is required. The National Bureau of Standards continues to consider the relation

3600 1 yard=- meter


which may also be expressed

1 meter=39.37 inches

as an exact equivalent. In the case of the relation between the avoirdupois pound and the kilogram, however, the National Bureau of Standards now recognizes as the fundamental relation

1 avoirdupois pound=0.453 592 427 7 kilogram which corresponds with

1 kilogram=2.204 622 341 avoirdupois pounds.

Certain additional nonstatutory material, referring to units of the metric system, is reported here to make it a matter of record in connection with the weights and measures laws: Order of the Treasury Department to officers of the customs,

June 17, 1913.

On and after July 1, 1913, the unit of weight for imported diamonds, pearls and other precious stones will be the metric carat of 200 milligrams.

Circular C43 of the National Bureau of Standards, November

1, 1913. Beginning July 1, 1913, the Bureau of Standards will recog. nize the international metric carat of 200 milligrams as the unit of weight for diamonds and other precious stones and will use this unit for the purposes of certification of all carat weights submitted to the Bureau for test. Army Regulations, 1944, Regulation 40-590, paragraph 17-b.

In time of peace and, so far as practicable, in time of war all prescriptions shall be written in the metric system.

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