Roland A. Boucher
Aerospace Engineer Ms Yale Retired
Orange County, CA Chapter Sigma Xi
When I was in grammar school I learned this and other New England sayings.When I became an engineer over 50 years ago, I learned that the American pint like theEnglish wine pint weighed a little short of one pound. Recent blogs on this subject havebeen less than illuminating so I did a little research. I found that the pint was indeedguaranteed to weigh a pound by the Magna Carta in 1215. Thatʼs right, the documentwhich formed the framework of our Constitution described legal volumes for themerchants and their customers in Merry Old England. The volume for the pint and its weight are contained in article 35 which contains the specifications for the gallon, the bushel and the London quarter of 8 bushels.
What I found next was astounding. These four standards were simply binary divisionsand multiplications of an ancient foot, related to Stonehenge, and one which dates back to the second millennium BCE when it was used in such far away places as the Minoan civilization on Crete and the early Japanese civilization on Okinawa. The bushel was simply one Minoan cubic foot, the gallon 1/8 bushel, and the pint 1/8 gallon. Just as today,one cubic cm of water defines one gram of weight, so in Early England one pint ofwater weighed one “Mercantile” pound and one pint of Wheat weighed one “Tower” Pound.
In 1215 all English land measurements were made in Saxon feet, Rods, and Furlongs and all major (Roman) roads in Roman miles. The English soon began to divorce themselves from Saxon and Roman measurements and in a political compromise enlarged their foot from 303.658 mm to 304.8 mm where it remains today.
Note Additional information linking the Winchester bushel to the Troy Pound can be found in a more recent post (07/22/2014)