Patents, click on any image to see larger image!
Maurits J. Albracht, Jr., of Amsterdam, Netherlands, received a patent in the U.S. on December 6, 1881, for this International Letter Scale, see copy of the Patent above. The particular scale offered here was sold by Eberhard Faber in New York. Eberhard Faber founded his company in 1861 on 42nd street in Manhattan, N.Y. The company manufactured and sold also pencils and stationary.
The company is still in business to this day and manufactures and sells all kinds of arts and school supplies; click here for the website of Eberhard Faber Co.
Today Eberhard Faber is once again part of Faber-Castell, one of the oldest family businesses in the world.
The scale weighs from 0 to 16 ounces, and is made of steel, brass and enamel. The scale using a parallelogram belongs to the class of Pendulum scales with a quadrant dial to display the weight.
There are good reasons why this scale is so scarce; first of all, it was an expensive scale only to be found in post offices or businesses. An other reason is the fact that the price for particular weights of letters, samples, and printed matter, is written on the enamel arc or dial of the scale. Once the price for a letter changed in 1917, these scales became obsolete!
Extensive research revealed only one extant model besides the one offered here. The only other example I was able to find is in the collection of the Foundation for Post and Telecommunication in Berlin, Germany. Click here to see the scale in that Foundation.
The example in the collection of the Foundation in Berlin has information in German on the enamel arc or dial of the scale. It appears that the enamel dials of scales were customized to the country the scale was used. The German or European version weighs up to 500 Grams which equals 17.64 ounces
The following description is given on the website of the Foundation for Post and Telecommunication in Berlin:
In February 1881, S. Horn from Offenbach and M. J. Albracht from Amsterdam patented the ‘Innovations in Letter Scales.’ The innovations were that on the scales, not only was the weight in grams given, but the postal charge for letters, printed matter, samples, and business papers according to the tariff of the Universal Postal Union were also shown. In addition to this, the centric alignment of the scale´s stand, which consequently required a level connection between the load-bearing pendulum level and pointer, were also new.
The scale has a dark patina as shown in the pictures. The scale is fully functional and complete. Everything is original; there are no repairs. The enamel arc or dial has a few little chips at the bottom where some of the writing “EBERHARD FABER” and “NEW YORK” is missing. The scale is in “as found” condition; I did not clean anything.
Interestingly, the date the U.S. patent was issued seems to be applied at two different times,
“PATENT 188 ” is printed in dark letters, the information to make it complete,
“ DEC 6 1” is printed in fainted letters. An indication that scales were made before the manufacturer knew the date of the actual issuing of the U.S. patent, and later, the missing characters were added.
According to the website of the Foundation for Post and Telecommunication in Berlin, the patent in the Nederlands was issued ten month earlier, in February of 1881. According to the U.S. patent, the patent issued in France on May 1, 1880; Germany May 3, 1880; Great Britain and Ireland May 24, 1880; Austria May 28, 1880; and Belgium on May 31, 1880.
As shown in picture #7, a little set-screw is damaged.
In the 1840s and 1850s, lower postage rates and the advent of prepaid postage stamps transformed the mail system in the United States. The price of mailing a letter from coast to coast dropped from 40 cents in 1847 to just three cents by 1863, the year the United States introduced postage rates based on weight. A letter could weigh up to half an ounce to qualify for the three cent price.
Twenty years later, on October 1, 1883, the price dropped again, down to two cents, and stayed there for the next 34 years! The Forth Class postage for "SAMPLES" was only one cent for half an ounce, half of the cost to mail a letter. This was important for a healthy economy as it allowed the fast distribution of seeds throughout the U.S.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) was founded on October 9th, 1874, in Bern, Switzerland, to read about the history of the UPU click here!
The website eberhardfaber.com also has a short history of the company, click here to see the history!
Learn more about the subject of letter scales on collector Andre Sol’s website.
Inventory Number 09339;