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Federal and State

Weights and Measures Laws

Through 1949 Enactments

Compiled in the Office of Weights and Measures by Kathryn M. Schwarz

under the direction of Ralph W. Smith

[blocks in formation]

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C

Price $5.75 (Fabrikoid)

QC 100 0573




This compilation of weights and measures laws is the fourth such compilation to be published by the National Bureau of Standards, earlier volumes having been issued in 1904, 1912, and 1926. This volume supersedes National Bureau of Standards Miscellaneous Publication M20, Third Edition (1926), "Federal and State Laws Relating to Weights and Measures".

The information here presented is not elsewhere available in a single volume, and comprises a collection of Federal and State laws, and certain Federal regulations, dealing with the regulatory control of commercial weighing and measuring equipment and practices. The effort has been to bring the material completely up to date through the 1949 sessions of the several State legislatures. The material has been selected for publication on the basis of presenting what will be most useful in this field to weights and measures officials, lawyers, equipment manufacturers, shippers, and business interests in general, and material considered of secondary importance or interest has consistently been eliminated from those sections which are reported.

Citations are given to the latest available official codes or compiled statutes, to the latest generally accepted compiled statutes if “official” works are not available, or, in the case of the more recent enactments, to the session laws. Thus those requiring to do so may readily locate the original sources from which the extracts published herein have been obtained. Dates of original enactment and last amendment are included, insofar as these could be determined. Separate, detailed tables of contents for the laws of each State and for the Federal laws, and a comprehensive topical index of the entire volume combine to provide means for locating quickly and effectively specific statutory provisions of each jurisdiction.

There has been for a number of years a growing demand from those enforcing or affected by weights and measures legislation, and from students, for an up to date compilation of the laws on this subject. It is believed that the needs of these groups will be met adequately by this publication. It is believed further, that this presentation of the prevailing statutory basis for weights and measures supervision and control in the United States will tend strongly to promote uniformity among the several jurisdictions and to encourage the strengthening of the laws and the extension of weights and measures supervision to areas not now adequately protected. Such results will be a valuable contribution to the orderly exchange of commodities and services in the commerce of the Nation.

E. U. CONDON, Director, National Bureau of Standards.



Federal weights and measures laws and regulations



1. A citation applies all sections following the citation, to the point where another citation
is given. In the text, when a citation carries over from an "odd” page to the succeeding "even"
page, the citation is repeated and is shown as "continued”.

2. The year of original enactment of each section is shown in brackets at the end of the section,
thus: [1911). If the section has been amended, the year of last amendment is combined with the
year of enactment, thus: [1911; last amended 1929).

3. Editorial notes, placed in brackets and identified as “Ed. NOTE", are utilized whenever it is
considered advisable to supply explanatory information of a general character.

4. Footnotes to particular sections, identified by reference numbers, appear in small type
immediately following the section to which they are referenced.


Weights and Measures Laws


The authority of the Congress of the United States in the field of weights and measures is found in the Constitution of the United States in two places in the same section, these being clause 3 and clause 5 of Section 8 of Article I. The first of these is commonly spoken of as the “interstate commerce” clause and the second as the "weights and measures" clause. Enactments under clause 3 are interstate only in their application; enactments under clause 5 are intrastate as well as interstate in their application, and so govern transactions wholly within a State as well as transactions between States.

If there is any conflict between the provisions of an “intrastate" Federal law and a State law, the Federal requirement supersedes the conflicting State requirement.

The text of the United States Constitutional provisions is as follows:

To regu.

Const. U. S., Art. I.

Sec. 8. The Congress shall have Power late Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

The Congress has enacted only a very few laws regulating weights and measures or weighing or measuring practices. The principal acts of this character which are now in effect are the following, all of which are reported in the section on Federal laws:

1. The Standard Barrel Act (1915), which establishes a barrel for “fruits, vegetables, and other dry commodities other than cranberries” and another somewhat smaller barrel for cranberries. This act is intrastate in its application.

2. The Standard Lime Barrel Act (1916), which establishes a "large" and a "small" barrel for lime. This act is interstate in its application.

3. The Standard Container Act of 1916, which establishes standard climax baskets for grapes and other fruits and vegetables and standard baskets and other containers for small fruits, berries, and vegetables. This act is interstate in its application.

4. The Standard Container Act of 1928, which establishes standard hampers, round stave baskets, and splint baskets for fruits and vegetables. This act is intrastate in its application.

5. The Packers and Stockyards Act (1921), under which there is prescribed a degree of Federal control over weighing facilities and practices at certain stockyards and live poultry markets.

6. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (1938), which superseded the Food and Drugs Act (1913), and which, among other provisions, deals with misbranded food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics when in package form. This aci is interstate in its application.

For reasons which are not clear at this time the Congress was very slow to act on the subject of

weights and measures during the early years of the Nation's existence. Although there is a record of sporadic discussions relative to the important matter of adoption of standards, beginning with the first message of President Washington on January 8, 1790, the first effective action of the Congress toward this end was the passage of the Mint Act of 1828, the pertinent part of which was as follows:

That, for the purpose of securing a due conformity in weight of the coins of the United States

the brass troy pound procured by the minister of the United States at London, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twentyseven, for the use of the mint, and now in the custody of the Mint at Philadelphia, shall be the standard troy pound of the Mint of the United States, conformably to which the coinage thereof shall be regulated. In amended form this provision is still in effect, as reported on page 40 under the citation, U. S. Code, 1946 Ed., Title 31, Ch. 8, Sec. 364.

Two years after passage of the Mint Act there was offered to the Senate (on May 29, 1830) a resolution which, being unanimously adopted, started a chain of events which culminated in the establishment of a uniform system of weights and measures standards for the United States. This Senate Resolution was as follows:

Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to cause a comparison to be made of the standards of weights and measures now used at the principal custom-houses in the United States, and report to the Senate at the next session of Congress. The adoption of this resolution followed upon a report to the Senate by one of its committees to the effect that investigation had disclosed differences in the standards used in the custom houses with resulting revenue losses of large amount.

For an account of what immediately followed, quo tation is made from National Bureau of Standards Miscellaneous Publication M122, "Weights and Measures in Congress", pp. 14–15:

The Secretary of the Treasury at the time the comparison of standards used in the customhouses was begun was S. D. Ingham. He delegated this work to Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, who was at that time Superintendent of the Coast Survey. Mr. Hassler made his first report on March 3, 1831, which was transmitted to the President of the United States and to the Senate by Secretary Ingham. A more complete report was submitted by Mr. Hassler on June 20, 1832. Louis McLane was Secretary of the Treasury at this time, and in his letter of transmittal to the President of the Senate, Mr. McLane stated that Mr. Hassler's investigations showed that large discrepancies were found to exist among the weights and measures in use at the different ports. While some discrepancies


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