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Early measurements standards for the colonies

Canada's earliest measurement standards were enacted for surveyors in 1674 by Frontenac, governor of Quebec. Two years later, regulations and definitions followed for weights and measures, including the minot, boisseau, pot, pinte, aune, chaîne, romaine, crochet, balance, etc. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1764, Canada's weights and measures were officially tied to those of the British Exchequer. Standards for towns were stamped "G. III, R", while approved tradesmen's measures were stamped "Clerks of the Market".

As early as 1795, official standards had been established for Newfoundland, Lower Canada (now Quebec) and Upper Canada (now Ontario). These early standards were generally of brass or copper. The Museum's earliest dated standards are a set of nested troy ounce weights (950509) dated 1796 and marked "G.R" (for George III) and "Lower Canada" (Quebec). The checkerboard symbol indicates that these were verified at the Exchequer in London before being brought to Canada. They were probably used until about 1872, when Avoirdupois measures replaced Troy measures.

Nested Troy Ounce Weights A set of nested Troy ounce weights (950509), dated 1796, were used in Quebec as secondary standards until about 1872. The checkerboard symbol stamped in the bottom (see detail) indicates that these were verified at the Exchequer in London.

Also associated with Lower Canada are a pair of volume standards (970086) which date from the early part of Queen Victoria's reign (circa 1840). They were principally used for wine, and are copper with brass labels soldered to the thin-walled containers. The "pot" — the smaller of the two — holds approximately 1 litre or 1 U.S. quart.

The pot and chopine (970086) were French standards used in Lower Canada (Quebec) before the introduction of the metric system in 1795. This set was probably made in France, with the brass label affixed once the set had been approved for use. Such sets were widely used as wine standards. Pot and Chopine

The next set of volume measures is the Winchester set (970081), dated 1825. The Winchester bushel was defined in 1495, during the reign of Henry VII, and remained in official use until 1824, when it was replaced by "Imperial" measures. Winchester units also provided the basis for the U.S. standard for dry measures, with sets maintained in Canada for comparison purposes. As with many of the artifacts in the metrology collection, the Museum's Winchester set was acquired from Measurement Canada.

Winchester set These Winchester gallon, quart and pint units from 1825 were defined — as are all subsequent volume measures — in terms of the number of cubic inches or centimeters they contained. Volume measures are thus considered "derived" units, rather than fundamental units.

By 1824, the British had established a new scientifically-based metrology system: the "Imperial" standards. Unfortunately, the new British standard yard was lost when Britain's Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire in 1834. The earliest standard yard (970073) in the Museum's collection is #12 in a series made between 1841 and 1845 by the London firm of Troughton & Simms, to replace the standard which had been destroyed. The Museum's T&S yard was made of Baily's Metal — a new low-expansion alloy of copper, tin and zinc. This rule was replaced in 1874 by another made by Troughton & Simms, also of Baily's Metal.

Our standard yard (970073) is made of a low-expansion alloy of copper, tin and zinc called Baily's Metal. The first in this series was made in 1841, to replace the British standard yard which had been destroyed when Britain's Houses of Parliament burned down in 1834. The Museum's example was made in 1845, and was calibrated for use at 61.80°F– at other temperatures, one must correct the length as the metal bar changes length as the temperature rises and falls. Standard yard

Rounding out highlights of the collection's pre-Confederation apparatus is a set of weights used in Newfoundland.

Queen Anne weights These "Queen Anne weights" (970079) from Newfoundland, circa 1844, were made to the Avoirdupois standard: i.e., 7 000 grains to a pound.

In 1855, the Troy pound (5 760 grains), which had been defined by British legislation in 1824, was replaced by a pound of 7 000 grains — Avoirdupois — the source of the traditional child's conundrum, "when is a pound not a pound?". The Museum's set (970079), made to the new standard, are referred to as the "Queen Anne weights". These were used in Newfoundland from about 1844 to 1936, and were replaced with new standards (970156) of unusual shape, just as Newfoundland became a Canadian province in 1949.

These Avoirdupois standard weights (970156) were ordered from de Grave, Short & Co. before Newfoundland entered Confederation. They are marked "G IV R 5323 1949" and "St. John [sic] Newfoundland". Although probably intended, when ordered, to become primary standards for Newfoundland, Confederation with Canada in 1949 relegated them to secondary standards. Avoirdupois standard weights