systems of the past by
a recent parts-buying effort the "metric-measure" demon raised its ugly head again.
Though the metric system is used worldwide and goes way back in history, efforts
to force the United States to use the system are slow going. I know of no one
personally except a few computer people who use the system on a regular basis.
Sadly, I find many young people don't know the basic weights and measures
chart. My father and grandfather could quote the standard weights and measurements
by heart as that was a required part of their limited education.
tells us at first all measurements, lengths and weights were determined by using
human body parts. An example is, 12 hands high, two pinches of salt and four steps
long. The capacity of containers were measured by counting the seeds the container
would hold. An example, today's "carat" used to measure gems is derived from counting
carob seed in a container.
When mathematics became common numbers, decimals
began to be used. The English, involved in worldwide trade for centuries, spread
their weights and measurements system throughout the world including the new colonies
in America. Later, immigration influences mixed in English, Holland, French, German
and Spanish measures and terms. All American weights and measures were standardized
in about 1790 by the U.S. government.
Being raised after the wooden
barrel went out of style, the only barrels I knew were the metal gasoline drums
that held our farm fuel before the advent of overhead storage tanks. These barrels
held 55 gallons, were very heavy to handle and had to be tipped at an angle to
prevent rainwater from leaking inside. I must have pumped a million gallons of
gas into tractor gas tanks with a cranked hand pump from these galvanized or rusty
At some time, probably in college, I learned a barrel
of beer held only 31 gallons. I was very surprised to learn a barrel of oil, as
used in petroleum production, holds only 42 gallons.
favorite barrel story involves of all people, Nellie Bly. Elizabeth Jane Cochran
became a famous expose reporter writing under the name of Nellie Bly a character
in a popular song. Barrels come into the picture when she married Robert Seaman
who owned the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co. and the American Steel Barrel Co. After
his death sometime later, Nellie became CEO and chief operating officer of the
In 1894 to 1904, metal containers, like barrels, cream cans,
pressure cookers and storage tanks, were all riveted together instead of being
welded. A lot of leaks occurred. Nellie directed the trials and errors of soldering,
brazing and welding seams of containers.
In 1905 she finally perfected
and patented the new idea. She placed the 55-gallon steel barrels into production
under 1,500 employees producing 1,000 barrels per day. Nellie also had to educate
the public how to handle and use the new barrels in order to sell. She became
wealthy, turned the business over to employees who, through fraud and mismanagement,
eventually declared bankruptcy.
Not only was Nellie Bly admired as "the
best reporter in America" she should be recognized as the inventor of the 55-gallon
welded barrel so prominent today.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"