St. Johnsbury to the World


Victorian Cast Iron and Brass "Fairbanks" Shop Scale with Weights (LEO Design)


Thaddeus Fairbanks, of Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, was an inventor, mechanic and wagon-maker.  He developed a cast iron plow and a cast iron oven, yet he was disappointed with contemporary weighing scales.  They were inaccurate and difficult to use.  With his brother, Erastus, he formed the E & T Fairbanks Company.  With their clever new inventions, the brothers' business rocketed—and their timing was perfect, right at the start of the Industrial Revolution.  By the 1860's, at the time of the American Civil War, Fairbanks scales were the most famous American product in the world.  

Thaddeus achieved ease and accuracy of weighing by applying the physics of leverage to reduce the amount of counterweight needed to measure heavy objects.  He developed in-ground scales (set into a hole) for weighing large objects (wagons or animals) without needing to hoist them atop the scale.  And the quality of his manufacturing made believers of his customers.

The Fairbanks brothers were also innovative strategists.  Early on, they developed a partnership with an English manufacturer who could build scales and service customers across the United Kingdom and Europe.  In time, Fairbanks opened an assembly plant in Budapest.

In 1846, with the opening of trade with China, the brothers established a foothold in Asia.  Trade with Cuba helped develop markets throughout the Caribbean.  In time, offices were opened in American cities like Boston, New York and Chicago.

At their peak, Fairbanks offered hundreds of product options for every trade or type of business: doctors, shopkeepers, heavy industry.  All the while, they also maintained an important "custom" department, to build specialty (one-off) scales for unique industrial applications.

The heavy cast iron and brass scale, shown above, would have been used in a general store or food shop.  Now approaching 150 years old, it is still intact, due to its heavy quality construction.  Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome scale.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248