Colonial liquid measurements

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Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri May 25, 2012 10:26 am

I am working on a handwritten teacher's manual for arithmetic from 1829 Kentucky. In it under "Liquid measure" the following are given as standards under Pennsylvania law "16 gallons make one half barrel, 31 1/2 gallons make one barrel, 64 gallons 1 double barrel 84 gallons 1 Puncheon".
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Re: Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby gillmang » Fri May 25, 2012 12:02 pm

Mike, 32 gallons was the size of the English ale barrel - ale as opposed to beer. The beer barrel was 36 gallons.

In the early 1800's before Imperial measure was adopted, the U.S. and British measures were the same, i.e. an English pint was 16 ounces as still in the U.S. (it's 20 now in the U.K.). So these old measures sound to me the same as what they would have been in England, allowing for the regional disparity there Imperial measure obviated.

Why a full barrel in Pennsylvania is just under 32 gallons is hard to understand, a half barrel was the expected 16 gallons, so I'm not sure about that, but the connection to England is still evident.

Many here, but not all, will know that ale differed from beer in that ale originally was unhopped. Beer was always hopped and came in to England from Flanders it appears in the 1400's. Once all ale became hopped, the distinction lost its former importance and the term beer and ale became used in a way that was often hard to distinguish or rationalize.

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Re: Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri May 25, 2012 2:13 pm

I agree with what you about the English connection. It is interesting that I have seen references to 48 gallon barrels for whiskey as early as the 1830s.
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Re: Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby gillmang » Fri May 25, 2012 5:33 pm

Mike that could be the hogshead as it is still termed in the Scotch whisky business, but I am not sure (the barrels today fashioned from staves broken down from regular ex-bourbon barrels, to which they add specially-made heads to make an extra large barrel).

48 gallons sounds about right for a hoggie but I don't know for certain again.

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Re: Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue May 29, 2012 3:21 pm

Gary,
In Kentucky, a hogshead is what tobacco was shipped in. They are huge - about 5 feet in diameter and not water tight. It makes me wonder how the term evolved for tobacco hogsheads as compared as to what you describe.
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Re: Colonial liquid measurements

Unread postby EllenJ » Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:26 pm

Mike,
Hogsheads are used as liquid containers in many parts of the world.
Rum, for example, is typically aged in hogsheads (at least it was before the major rum companies were purchased by the same people who own the bourbon whiskey companies); I believe that's true of Cognac (or at least some kinds of brandy) as well.
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