Branford House Antiques
A Historic 1850s Farmhouse on a Scenic Vermont Dairy Farm








Fairbanks Scales

It appears to be simple coincidence that two of the greatest American scale companies of the 19th and 20th centuries were both Vermont founded and based. The Fairbanks Scales of St. Johnsbury, Vermont and the Howe scales of Rutland, Vermont seem to have no other similarities than both being founded in tiny Vermont.

In 1823, Thaddeus Fairbanks started a foundry in St Johnsbury to manufacture two of his inventions, a cast iron stove and a cast iron plow. The next year his brother, Erastus, joined him and they named their company "E & T Fairbanks Company". In 1830 they applied for a patent and immediately began manufacturing their first scale, a revolutionary different platform scale. It would turn out to be incredibly successful and the first of many, many new scale innovations. Even before the start of the Civil War, when the youngest brother Joseph joined the Company, Fairbanks Scales may have been the most recognized American product in the world. Then, only a few years after the Civil War, Fairbanks was making over 4,000 scales a year and supplying them throughout the world. They even had licensing agreements and manufacturing plants in several countries. By 1882 it was producing more than 80,000 scales annually and by 1897 they held more than 113 scale related patents and manufactured more than 10,000 different models.

In 1916, a Fairbanks employee, Charles Hosmer Morse gained control of the company in what we would today call a leveraged buyout (LBO). He renamed the company "Fairbanks-Morse" and added a line of diesel and electrical engines and industrial pumps. In 1958 the company was purchased by and merged with Penn-Texas and was again renamed: "Fairbanks-Whitney". In the 1960s it again was renamed: "Fairbanks Weighing Division of Colt Industries".

In 1988 the division was purchased by an outside group of investors and again renamed: "Fairbanks Scales". The lead stockholder, Bill Norton, became president and the finance, administrative and marketing offices were moved from St Johnsbury, where it was founded by Thaddeus over 150 years earlier, to Kansas City, Missouri. Today, Bill's son Richard is President and the company has over 500 employees with offices in 49 states and 25 countries.

Antique Fairbanks scales are very collectible today thanks to the many and varying models made over the years. Of course, the earlier and more decorated ones are more valuable as décor. Prices can range from $25 for a simple and plain scale to more than $1,000 for an older, well decorated and more interesting scale.


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