By Miriam Ehrlich
Hello, it’s Miriam! The object we will be looking at this week is a brass hanging scale. It has two shallow plates that come down from separate chains attached to the same iron pole. The chains are attached to the pole by hooks to support the weight. It is from around the mid 18th century and measures 41.5 inches in height, 23.25 inches in length, and 14.75 inches in diameter.
This scale was once used in the interpretation of the store in the Jean Hasbrouck house. One fascinating part of the history here is that we can sometimes date the age of a historic house by using dendrochronology, which is a scientific method of dating by looking at tree rings.1 That means that some of the houses here are also hundreds of years old! The original Hasbrouck house is dated to have been built very soon after Hasbrouck first arrived here, in the late 1600s. It only had two rooms at the time.2 After he died, Jean’s son, Jacob, inherited the property and built it up, turning it into the beautiful stone house that remains here today.3
You may recognize the name Hasbrouck from somewhere else in the village, besides this street. That is because you can also find the name Hasbrouck as the name of the main dining hall on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
The house itself is very significant architecturally. After Jacob made changes it was “essentially twice the size of the typical stone house in the village…”4 It also has a large center passage, or hallway. This was unusual for the time and sets the house apart from the others, making it unique. Hallways were often a sign of wealth during this era of history. Additionally, the Hasbrouck house is important because it began to stray away from classical Dutch architecture. This can be seen in the location of the house itself, which runs parallel to the street instead of facing it, which was a popular Dutch practice.5
This house is also important to Huguenot history because of its store, which is how Josiah Hasbrouck (great grandson of patentee Jean) made much of his income. While Hasbrouck was neither the first nor only person to create a storefront out of his own house, it is still an important part of Huguenot Street and New Paltz history. The storefront is significant because it represents an economic shift in the north from an agrarian to more commercial way of making a living. The storefront would have been full of many different items from food and liquor to clothing and textiles.
We have a record of various goods sold out of the Hasbrouck storefront from 1793-1794. These items would have been measured using this scale or one just like it. The archive notes that in November to December of 1793 there were three transactions of tea, measuring ¼, 1, and 6 pounds. The flavors sold were Sushan, Bohea, and green. In those same months, two brass candlesticks were sold. Other popular items that were sold included fish hooks, knives, and buttons. While today stores use electronic scales, sometimes scales such as this one are used to make measurements. In fact, some local stores in New Paltz do this.
This scale originally belonged to the Hasbrouck storefront in the 18th century. An exciting new feature of this year’s tours will be the rebirth of the Jean Hasbrouck store. You will be able to see this object on display in the house starting May 7!
1 Historic Huguenot Street. Guided Tour. New Paltz, 2016.
4 “Furnishing Plan for the Jean Hasbrouck House.” Neil Larson & Associates: Woodstock, February 2004.
5 Historic Huguenot Street. Guided Tour. New Paltz, 2016.