Humboldt State University ® Department of Chemistry

Robert A. Paselk Scientific Instrument Museum

The following history is provided courtesy of John and Geraldine Shannon, ©1999, and is reprinted with permission. For the original illustrated chapter and additional infomation (including a general history of the precision balance, other manufacturers, illustrations of assay balances, reprinted catalog materials, footnotes, etc.) see their book.
© Richard Paselk 2002


Voland & Sons

John Meeks Shannon and Geraldine Collins Shannon

Peter Gottfried Voland was born in Cassel, Germany in 1852 where, with his father, he engaged in many scientific pursuits. At the age of 19 he bought a ticket on the ship Berlin and sailed from Bremen, Germany on the North Sea. He arrived at the port of Baltimore, Maryland on the 26th of June, 1871. Not long after his arrival, he married Caroline Henze. He secured work for a brief time with Thomas Edison and soon thereafter was employed by Becker & Sons Balance Company in New Rochelle, New York, where he learned the trade of balance making.

In 1888 he formed a partnership with Henry Van Zelm, who also worked for Becker & Sons, and established Voland and Van Zelm at New Rochelle in a small building on Huguenot and Division Streets. "The goal of this new company was to supply analytical balances for the rapid expansion of American industry and universities and also to supply assay balances for the gold prospectors of the Old West." In 1910 the factory was moved to a newly built three-story, block-deep factory at 32 Relyea Place in New Rochelle.

Voland and his wife had two sons, George Gottfried and Emil, and one daughter Gertrude. After Van Zelm's death in 1903, Voland took his two sons into the business and the firm became Voland & Sons. Peter Gottfried Voland died on November 27, 1915. Successful operation of the company continued, however, and in 1927 necessitated an enlargement of the facility. Although George Gottfried died in 1928 and Emil in 1938, Voland & Sons continued to operate under the leadership of Mrs. Helen Wright, daughter of Mrs. Amelia E. Voland and the late George Gottfried Voland, Sr.

Sometime in the middle 1940s, the firm was purchased by James C. Jacobson, who became president, and Charles A. Jacobson, the new secretary-treasurer. At this time there were forty workers and the new president planned to enlarge the staff by ten to fifteen individuals. When the Voland Company marked its 60th anniversary in 1948, 150 employees and guests were entertained. Also in 1948 the firm completed manufacture of a bullion balance "to be used by the Argentine Central Bank for weighing gold and silver. It stood eight feet high and weighed more than a ton, was accurate to within 2 1/2 grains and could weigh a pin or a feather. It had a capacity of 10,000 ounces . . . ."

In 1969 the firm was acquired by Emtech Research Products Corporation of New Rochelle and the firm continued under the Voland name until January of 1989. At that time it became part of AN Systems, Inc. in Massachusetts. AN systems, Inc. was a principal supplier of ultrahigh precision mass-measurement equipment to leading industries, universities and government agencies such as NASA and the National Bureau of Standards.

In addition to marketing assay balances under its own name, Voland & Sons provided many assay balances for the leading scientific instrument supply companies. At least some evidence of that fact can be found by comparing the photo of the Voland model No. 1005A with the one advertised by Eimer and Amend as early as 1898 and continuing for a number of years afterward.

Although Voland, together with Van Zelm, began his balance making in 1888, not many of the company's assay balances appeared under their own name in catalogues of scientific instrument suppliers.


Catalogue Listings


Vendor Catalog Scans

As a supplement to the catalog information gathered above by the Shannons (some of which is illustrated in their book), a collection of scanned images and descriptions of balances is available via the table below.

The images and catalog descriptions are scanned from vendor catalogs in the curator's collection, beginning in 1910, and ending in 1968, the last catalog to include Becker balances. In each case an effort has been made to scan all of the balances of a given manufacturer in the catalog. It should be noted. however, that the distributors generally show only a selection of balances from any one manufacturer. Catalogs are selected from the curator's collection at approximately ten year intervals, when available, with a second criteria being representation of the specific manufacturer.


Calkins Co. (c. 1920)

Braun-Knecht-Heiman-Co. (1929)

Central Scientific Co. "Cenco" (1929)

Cenco (1941)

Fisher Scientific Company (1958)

Van Waters and Rogers (1968)

Fisher Scientific Company, New York (1980)

Index of Instruments

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Instrument Literature


HSTC (1921-34)
HSC (1935-1953)
HSC (1954-1973)
© R. Paselk
Last modified 15 June 2007