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








Howe Scales

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

It all started in 1855 at the Sampson Scale Company of Vergennes, Vermont. Employees Frank Strong and Thomas Ross developed and patented a new scale innovation that utilized ball bearings for the first time. This revolutionary design concept assured accuracy in weight measurement that had not previously been possible. Then in 1856 they built and patented a huge scale for measuring canal boats, another major innovation in scale design.

In 1857 John Howe Jr of Brandon, Vermont was operating a foundry in Brandon and was approached by Strong and Ross to manufacture their scales at the Brandon foundry. He agreed and the three entered into a partnership calling their new company The Howe Scale Company. In 1864 Howe bought out his partners, including those early patents, and continued operations on his own. Howe scales became well known and respected and at the 1867 Paris Exhibition it beat worldwide competition by winning all the medals (gold, silver and bronze) in the scale category.

In 1869 Nathan T. Sprague, Jr. of Brandon bought out the company, continued the manufacturing operations and the new company was named The Brandon Manufacturing Company. Since the name Howe was by then very well known and respected, Sprague continued to use it on the scales. Then in 1872 there was a major fire and rather than totally rebuild the Brandon plant, Sprague considered relocating to Rutland, Vermont. One of Sprague's investors was John Boardman Page of Rutland, who also happened to be a director in the Rutland and Burlington Railroad. Page must have been constantly pushing for moving to Rutland to benefit from close proximately to the railroad as well as enhancing Rutland's economic development. Sprague did rebuild the Brandon plant after that fire and all operations remained in Brandon. Then by 1877 Page had increased his investment in the company so as to have controlling interest and the company was moved to Rutland and renamed The Howe Scale Company.

John Boardman Page ended up having a very illustrious political career including serving 16 years as treasurer of the town of Rutland, three terms as a member of the state house of representatives, state treasurer from 1860 thru 1867 (throughout the entire Civil War) and two terms as the youngest and most popular governor of Vermont.

The Howe Scale Company made scales in Rutland for 105 years and quickly grew to the area's largest industrial employer and it's most important corporate tax payer. It quit operations in 1982 and today Howe scales are still in use throughout the world.

Many Howe scales are collectible and can range is value from less than $50 for a simple country store scale to over $1,000 for an early vintage and well decorated one.


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