Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hanging Steelyard Scales

This type of hanging scales is sometimes referred to as a Roman Balance because scales of this type were first used during the time of the Roman Empire. According to Jaime Morrison in the website, "The Romans brought these scales to Britain around 55 B.C.E., and the English word 'steelyard' by which they are referred today is thought to be a mistranslation of the German 'Stael-hof', which was itself the name of the base of the Hanseatic merchants of the Middle Ages, who used the Roman balance extensively in their businesses."  

Farmers would often use these scales to weigh pieces of meat, such as from a butchered pig, skewering the dangling hooks into the piece of meat, then hooking the top hook over a nail in a beam, or over a branch of a tree, so that the scales with its dangling weight could hang freely. Then the large bulbous counterweight would be moved outward along the arm until the small cross would line up with the arms of the top hook.

This iron scales dates from 1846. That date is known because when scales like these were made, a coin from the year was usually attached to the end of the arm. The coin attached to the arm of this scales is dated 1846. The date on the coin can be seen in the photograph. 


  1. This is so cool! I love learning about ancient times and the technology they had. Where did you find these old scales? I feel like they would be pretty rare to come by.
    Hilary |

    1. The scales shown here were handed down through my family, but I have seen them every now and then at antique shops. The things that is rare is to find one with the coin still attached to the end.

  2. I think to get a scale that hangs down would be really nice to have. I would have so many more options of things I can weigh. Right now I am dealing with a small floor scale. I really hope I can learn more about hanging scales.