Historical information

The basic balance scale has been around for thousands of years and its accuracy has improved dramatically over the last several centuries, the principle behind this tool remains unchanged. Its parts include a fulcrum, a beam that balances on it, a pan at the end of the beam to hold the materials to be weighed, and a flat platform at the other for the counter-balancing weights. Balance scales that require equal weights on each side of the fulcrum have been used by everyone from apothecaries and assayers to jewellers and postal workers. Known as an unequal arm balance scale, this variety builds the counterweight into the device. Counter scales used in dry-goods stores and domestic kitchens often featured Japanned or (blackened) cast iron with bronze trims. Made by companies such as Howe and Fairbanks, the footed tin pans of these scales were often oblong, some encircled at one end so bulk items could be easily poured into a bag. Seamless pans were typically stamped from brass and given style names like Snuff (the smallest) and Birmingham (the largest). Some counter scales were designed for measuring spices, others for weighing slices of cake. In the 18th century, spring scales began to appear and would use the resistance of spring to calculate weights, which are read automatically on the scale’s face. The ease of use of spring scales over balance scales.


These scales are significant as they identify one of the basic preparation items for the weighing of foodstuff in the family kitchen to prepare everyday meals. This item is significant as it gives a snapshot into domestic life within the average home in Australia around the turn of the twentieth century and is, therefore, an item with social relevance.

Physical description

Black cast iron, medium weighing scales, with a fulcrum which the beam that balances on, there is a scoop or large bowl at one end for the material to be weighted and a flat platform at the other end that holds the weights.

Inscriptions & markings

Around the cast iron base is an embossed strip weight and bowl missing.