Breaking Global Standards: The Anti-metric Crusade of American Engineers
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During the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, groups of scientists and exporters pushed for legislation that would make the decimal metric system of weights and measures the exclusive system of measurement in the United States. As is well known, these efforts to metricate America failed repeatedly. One of the key reasons why the federal government failed to secure metric adoption was the forceful opposition mounted by mechanical engineers. This group of experts participated in mass media, scientific publications, and political debates against the convenience of adopting the metric system. Their well-executed campaigns made the compulsory introduction of the metric system a highly contested political issue. This chapter follows two key individuals in this context, the mechanical engineer Frederick A. Halsey and the textile industrialist Samuel S. Dale, who founded in 1916 the American Institute of Weights and Measures, an association that for two decades led the fight against metric adoption.