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Log Cabin Living: Postal Scales

Artifacts from 19th Century Life

Written by Madeline Teddy, Museum Intern

Edited for publication by Holly Stewart, Program Manager

The Log Cabin Living: Artifacts from 19th Century Life exhibit at Job Carr Cabin Museum encourages visitors to take a closer look at more than 20 objects in the museum's collection.

In 1868, with a population of 100, Tacoma petitioned President Ulysses Grant for a postmaster. President Grant appointed Job Carr as the postmaster of Tacoma in March 1869. Job was responsible for determining the location of the first post office and selecting a mail carrier. He chose his home as the initial post office and appointed his son, Anthony Carr, as the carrier.

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Desk arranged in Job Carr Cabin Museum to highlight Job's time as Postmaster of Tacoma.

In the mid-nineteenth century, scales became essential in all post offices. Before 1845, postage costs were based on the number of pages in a letter and the distance it traveled, making the system complex. In 1845, postal costs underwent simplification, relying on the weight of the mail and the distance it had to travel. Further streamlining in 1863 eliminated postal differences based on distance.

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Triner parcel scale hanging in the Job Carr Cabin Museum.

Postal clerks had to weigh each letter accurately, and many postal scales had the letter rates directly marked on them. Until the early 1900s, most scales were small due to the Post Office Department's four-pound weight limit. The vertically hanging scale at Job Carr Cabin Museum is a 20-pound Triner Parcel Scale. This is a spring balance scale where the package would be attached to the bottom for weighing. Triner Scale, founded in 1897, was a leading provider of scales to the post office. In 1912, the United Stated Postal Service ordered 20,000 scales similar to the one seen on display at Job Carr Cabin Museum.

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The Fairbanks package scale at the Job Carr Cabin Museum.

The Fairbanks package scale on display at the Museum is a 9-Ounce Package Scale. The Fairbanks Scales company has been producing scales since the 1830s and was one of the top suppliers of scales to the Post Office Department.

Take a closer look at the postal scales at the museum in this short video:


Clayman, Andrew. “Triner Scale & MFG Co., Est. 1903 - Made-in-Chicago Museum.” Made in Chicago Museum, Andrew Clayman, 27 Apr. 2020,

“Fairbank History.” Fairbanks Scales, Fairbanks Scales, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

“Fairbanks Package Scale.” National Postal Museum, Smithsonian, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Marsh, Allison. “Scales & Weights.” National Postal Museum, Smithsonian, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

“Po Dept Postal Scale Triner Scale & MFG Co Chicago IL.” Worthpoint, Worthpoint, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Pulver, Danielle. “You’ve Got Mail - Part II.” Edited by Mary Bowlby, Job Carr Cabin Museum , Job Carr Cabin Museum, winter 2012, 

About the Author

Madeline Teddy completed an internship with Job Carr Cabin Museum in Fall 2023. She was a graduate of University of British Columbia majoring in history and classical Near Eastern religious studies. She hoped to take her studies further and become a museum curator.