The U.S. Constitution reserves to the states the right to regulate commerce and the weights and measures system within their borders. Throughout the 19th century, each state developed and enforced its standards. This lack of uniformity crippled economic growth, interstate commerce, and honest trade. In 1905, the National Bureau of Standards called for a meeting of the states to discuss the lack of uniform standards and in many instances, a lack of regulatory oversight. The participants decided to meet again the next year marking the birth of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM). NCWM’s first model standards were published in 1915 to serve as tolerances and specifications for weighing and measuring devices.
Over 100 years later, NCWM has evolved into a not-for-profit corporation with full-time staff and volunteer leadership that ensures national standards keep pace with evolving technology and marketing practices. NCWM continues the tradition established in 1905 of including state and local regulators, regulated industries and federal agencies in the process. This ensures the highest level of expertise is combined with practical limitations for the development of fair model standards for adoption by the states and territories of the United States. NCWM serves as a model of inclusive standards development while limiting the voting process for adopting standards to the state and local regulatory officials who ultimately enact the standards without bias. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) publishes the standards as adopted by NCWM in Handbooks 44, 130, and 133. NIST also provides technical advisors to NCWM’s special committees, provides insight into federal law and international standards and serves as a valuable training resource for regulatory officials. NCWM also administers the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP), established in 1984, and publishes the NTEP administrative and technical policies and checklists for evaluation in NCWM Publication 14.
Below is a photo of the White House Reception by President Coolidge to the 21st National Conference on Weights and Measures. May 25, 1928.
See more historic photos and documents in the Historical Archive