This unmarked set of masses at the Garland Collection of Classical Physics Apparatus at Vanderbilt University caught my eye. All my life I have been looking at collections of masses placed in holes drilled in solid wood blocks, and this imaginative alternative appealed to me. Masses are, by definition, lumpy pieces of metal, and this method of displaying hanging, linked masses seemed a brilliant solution to a mundane problem.

   I really wanted to label this section "Weight Set". But many years of trying to teach the difference between weight and mass have made me cautious!

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   This set of weights at the University of Vermont was made by the firm of Henry Troemmer of Philadelphia, best known for its analytical balances. 

   The box has a note that the standard weights were made for the United States Bureau of Weights and Measures by Troemmer.

   The weights are in units of pounds, and include 1, 2, 2, 5, 5, 10 and 25 pound standards. Also included is a lifter for the masses that has a padded cover to the region that comes in contact with the masses.

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   Most masses are rather dull, but here are three sets from the Greenslade Collection that have interesting shapes. At the left is a set of hooked masses from the Central Scientific Company of Chicago. They are probably from the first years of the nineteenth century.

   At the left are sets of masses marked off in ounces. The nesting set is in troy ounces, and tapered set in ounces avoirdupois.


    This unusual mass set is in grains. The smallest mass is 20 grains and the largest is 3000 grains. It was probably used in conjunction with the small balance in the Greenslade Collection that is calibrated in grains.

   The cover has the name of "Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co, Providence, R.L., USA". It was donated to the Greenslade Collection by Daniel Chaucer.

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