Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis



First Advisor

Ann Johnson


Some discussion of the metric system occurred during the early days of the United States through the 1820s, but it did not receive serious consideration as the standard system of measurement for the United States during this period. A serious movement to make the metric system America's standard system of measurement did begin around the Civil War period, however. This movement gradually gained momentum, but it encountered intense opposition in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Some general trends become apparent for those who argued each side of the debate. A number of the most passionate opponents of the metric system were involved with industry and particularly interested in the management of labor. They were concerned with production efficiency and often tended to regard the laboring class much like machines. Even so, they often represented themselves as spokesmen for workers. Conversely, proponents often demonstrated much concern for the laboring class. This often came from an elitist position with a paternalistic desire to decide what would be best for the American masses. Both sides argued passionately before Congressional Committee hearings during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the push for the metric system reached its high tide.