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1850 NEW MEXICO TERRITORY – COLORADO TERRITORY – PIKE’S PEAK WOOD CASED POCKET GOLD FIELD SCALES – IDENTIFIED TO AN IMMIGRANT FROM CONNECTICUT IN ALBUQUERQUE:  This is a great little set of mid-19TH Century Gold Field Miner’s Pocket Scales, identified to Rufus Pierpont, a merchant from Connecticut who was traveling through Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory in 1850, on his way to Pike’s Peak in the Colorado Territory, and he commemorated his trip on the label he glued to the inside cover of the scale case. 

Rufus Pierpont was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1818 into a family of merchants.  Pierpont died at home in New Haven in 1855 at the age of 37, and his widow never remarried, living out her life and raising their children in the family home until her passing in New Haven in 1917 at the age of 93.  That she stayed in the same home, in the same community probably accounts for how this set of scales, a keep sake of her husband’s adventure out west, survived to be acquired by a modern collector.  The set was purchased in the 1970’s from an estate sale in the Hartford, Connecticut area.   

No record of Pierpont’s journey through the west has been found.  Given the times, and that he was traveling and not a permanent resident of Albuquerque, or the New Mexico or Colorado Territories, that he left no record of his passage through that part of the frontier is not particularly surprising.   However, the birth records of his immediate family does identify the window of opportunity during which he was able to make his journey.   

Pierpont married Harriet Richards on September 14, 1847.  Their first child, Elias was born in New Haven on November 28, 1849, indicating the child was conceived in February of 1849.  Elias died of complications related to the birth in January of 1850.  Whether Pierpont was still home for the birth of the child or at the time of his passing is unknown.  Their second child was born on May 8, 1851 – also in New Haven - which indicates Pierpont had returned home for the conception by September of 1850.  Their third and forth children were born at regular intervals in 1853 and 1854, and Pierpont fell ill in July of 1855, dying within a few days from unexplained hemorrhaging from his lungs.  The period between the conception of the two children – February of 1849 and September of 1850 – allows ample time for Pierpont’s journey through the west when he would have had this set of cased scales and recorded his passage through Albuquerque and his intent to travel “ON TO PIKE’S PEAK” on the label applied to the inside of the case cover.    

This set consists of a case made of oak, measuring 5 ¾” long, 2 ¾” wide and just over 1” deep, the full set of scales, and two natural, presumably gold nuggets.  I have not had them tested, but they have all the appearance of real gold.   

The wooden case is full form with no cracks or splits, has tight joints, and it still retains the original simple iron wire hinges and the brass hook and eye closure.  The label is full form with no surface or edge loss, is still completely sealed to the inside of the case lid, and all of the inked, hand written inscription and decorative drawing is fully legible.   

The scales consist of a delicately formed 5” long iron balance bar, top loop, and balance indicator, from which two matching brass pans measuring 2” in diameter are suspended by the original twisted cotton cords.  A loop of the same twisted cotton cord is attached to the top of the top loop of the balance bar for suspending the scales in use.  Overall, this is a very attractive, and notably complete, set of mid-19TH scales as were carried into the gold fields by prospectors.   

While these sets of scales appear on the market from time to time, rarely do they survive with the case intact, and almost never are they identified with the name of the adventurous soul who entered the mountains in search of his fortune, or the date of his journey.  This set has it all, and it is dated in the high point of the Gold Fever which pulled so many men into the gold fields of the American West.  SOLD


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