1870s Liquid Measures

Leafing through a cookbook from 1877, I found a great table of liquid measures. Some of these are common measures today while others were better known by our great-great grandparents.

1 teaspoon full = 45 drops of pure water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (This measure was included due to the varied sizes of teaspoons.)

1 teaspoon = about 1 fluid drachm

4 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon or ½ fluid ounce (today’s measures are 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon so this shows the change in measuring spoon size over the years)

1 ounce = 8 fluid drachms (1/4 gill)

1 pint = 16 fluid ounces (4 gills)

16 tablespoons = ½ pint

1 tea-cup = 8 fluid ounces (2 gills)

4 tea-cups = 1 quart

1 common-sized tumbler holds about ½ pint (8 ounces)

4 gills (gi.) = 1 pint

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

The cookbook author mentions old French measures for liquids used “1 tea-cup equals 4 fluid ounces or 1 gill.” The author does not say how many years ago that measure had been used. The tea-cup was about twice that size in the 1870s.

These important variations make it challenging to figure out ingredient measurements for historic recipes.


Has anyone run across recipe measuring in gills or drachms?

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.


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