It’s Wednesday so this week it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Pocket Balance
A pocket balance – also known as a spring scale – is simply a spring fixed at on e end with a hook to which an object can be attached at the other. The object to be weighed is hung from the hook and the force that this weight exerts on the spring is proportion al to the distance that spring is extended – an established scientific principle known as Hooke’s Law. The scale markings on the spring balance identify the weight accordingly. The pocket balance was first created in 1770 by Richard Salter in the UK. From the late 18th century onwards these little scales were widely used in markets, grocers and farm shops – wherever people needed to be able to verify the weight of goods to be purchased in order to calculate the correct pricing. Portable, quick and simple to use, the pocket balance was ideal for weighing goods where pinpoint accuracy was not required, for example, sacks of potatoes or meat carcasses. The underlying principles of the spring balance were later incorporated into the spring scale weighing system widely used by retailers. In this case, the items are placed on a tray underneath the spring mechanism and the pressure exerted (expressed as weight) is shown by the position of pointer on the numbered dial.
Contribution to Retail History
The portable spring scale was the first major development in weighing scales that didn’t rely on the use of counterweights. Their portability enabled goods to be weighed anywhere, not only in shops or other fixed locations. Spring scales are still in use today because they are cheap to make and easy to use, although in the retail environment, more accurate digital scales have replaced them.
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