Here’s another scale, this one for weighing eggs rather than infants.

A thoughtful predecessor left a wooden egg in the storage box for demonstration purposes.

This compact (6″ tall) spring scale, dating from the 1920s or ’30s, was used to weigh individual eggs so that they could be sorted by size. A number of different companies produced these little tools; ours was made by the Oakes Manufacturing Company of Tipton, Ohio. Other brands (and a later version of this particular scale) included color-coded size markers on the dial, from Small to Extra Large, in addition to standard weights. Our scale measures in ounces without assigning a size category, but the top of the dial does calculate for you the weight in ounces of a dozen eggs of like stature, no multiplication required.

The scale was donated in the early 1960s by Henry L. Meyer of Gaithersburg. Unfortunately, we did not get any additional information from the donor, and I have not been able to track him to a particular time or place. Mr. Meyer or his family may have used the scale for years . . . or he may have picked it up at an antique store. For the sake of argument, however, let’s say it came from his family and was used in Gaithersburg. Why would the Meyers need an egg scale in their kitchen? Many parts of Montgomery County – the Gaithersburg area included – were still pretty rural in the 1920s and ’30s. Whether or not your family had a large farm, you were still likely to have a chicken or two in the yard. As modern-day adherents to the suburban poultry movement may have noticed, sometimes you can only eat so many eggs; extras and leftovers have to be given away or sold. Although today (according to the American Egg Board) egg grading has nothing to do with size, eggs are still sorted by size and weight for sale. The same was true in the early 20th century. A woman with an egg scale on hand could more easily sort her eggs for market. Like the family kitchen scales mentioned last week, antique egg scales are relatively plentiful in the internet auction/sale world, possibly indicating that they were equally plentiful in rural and suburban households of the early 20th century.

This is one of those artifacts that could lead to multiple avenues of research: suburban farming in the county, the changing roles and duties of farm wives, home finances and supplemental income in the 1930s, the introduction of technology and standardization into the home… which is great, who doesn’t love additional research avenues?  But since those investigations don’t often make it onto the blog, this endeavor can sometimes seem a little shallow: ‘Look, a neat artifact!  The end!’  I hope that every artifact I put up on the blog sparks at least a little curiosity in my readers, just as it does for me.

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