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Maker(s):Richardson, Joseph (retailed by)
Date Made:ca. 1780
Type:Weights & Measures
Materials:base metal: steel, brass; cord, wood: oak; paper, ink
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; London
Measurements:overall: 1 in x 5 11/16 in x 2 13/16 in; 2.54 cm x 14.44625 cm x 7.14375 cm
Accession Number:  HD 61.140.2
Credit Line:Gift of Reginald French
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Set of brass scales in a rectangular wooden box with dove-tailed corners, which were said to have been used by John Russell (1767-1839) of Deerfield, Northampton and Greenfield, a silversmith and clockmaker who may have apprenticed with Isaac Parker (1749-1805) who worked in Deerfield from c.1776-1788. A paper label inscribed in ink which came with the box reads: "These Scales belonged / to and were used by / Major John Russell / Silversmith in / Gr. late in the 18th / Century./ Given to me by / James S. Grinnell." The scales were sold by Joseph Richardson (1711-1784) of Philadelphia, who sold many sets of scales and weights in wooden boxes and shagreen cases imported from from a number of suppliers in London. His printed paper label is pasted on the inner lid: "A TABLE of the VA- / LUE and WEIGHT of / COINS, as they now / pass in PENNSYLVANIA." over a list of the current value for commonly circulated coins and the equivalent per pennyweight and grains of gold and silver for "English Guineas / French Guineas / Moydores / Johannes's / Half Johannes's / French Pistoles / 4 Spanish Pistole Pieces / 2 Spanish Pistole Pieces / 1 Spanish Pistole Piece / Half a Spanish Pistole Piece / Carolines / Spanish Pieces of Eight" over "Gold Scales and Weights,/ Sold by / JOSEPH RICHARDSON,/ Goldsmith, in / PHILADELPHIA." There are hand-written ink numbers on the printed label, reflecting changing currency values. The 14 brass weights are stamped "S.G.", which could be attributed to Samuel Grey of Philadelphia (see scales, HD 96.802). Smaller, portable scales, which were either held in the hand for weighing or hung from a metal stand, used the Roman system of the scruple, drachm, grain. These beam scales were used to measure the overall quantity of metal such as coins brought in by a client or provided by the silversmith for fashioning an object; measure the mixture of metals for solder in deterimining the amount of metal needed for casting; and calculate the client's cost by weight of finished piece. Brass weights have been used tradtionally since brass can be milled to exact weights. These scales were also used by apothecaries and physicians for weighing and compounding drugs and calculating fees. The scale has a steel balance beam and two copper pans suspended by ring and hole pivot; and the set of 14 brass weights are stamped with circles to denote weight. The lid is held on by cotter pins, and a brass c-clasp and hook.

Label Text:
Before the Coinage Act of 1792, there was no uniform or regulated system of currency in the American colonies. European gold and silver coins of many differents sorts, were all accepted as legal tender, though at different values in different colonies. Consequently, coin scales and charts were used to determine the value of such coins in a particular colony. Prominent Philadelphia silversmith, Joseph Richardson, imported this boxed coin scale set from England. The brass weights bear the stamp of the English Assay Office, a lion passant, along with their weight in pennyweights (dwt). Despite its English manufacture, pasted on the underside of the box lid is Richardson’s label detailing the most common gold and silver coins then circulating in Pennsylvania. Given its transatlantic history, this coin scale set tells the story of the increasingly independent American colonies and their role in the global economy of the eighteenth century.

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