Although industry had long had in-house designers and master craftsmen to design products, the 1920s saw the advent of professional industrial designers who worked as consultants to manufacturers to design specific products. This new phenomenon was led by individuals such as Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) and Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960). Joseph Sinel, who designed this scale, was one of these new professional designers.
This meter is perhaps Sinel's most famous design. The overall form derives from Manhattan's most potent symbol, the skyscraper. In 1916, the New York zoning code was modified to require all buildings over a certain height be set back at the top to allow light and fresh air to reach pedestrians below. As a result, structures such as the Chrysler Building (constructed 1928-31), had a profound effect on New York's skyline. Sinel and others incorporated these new icons of American modernity into their work. The silhouette of this piece, for example, features a tall shaft with stepped-back top. To further enhance the boldness of the design, Sinel used Art Deco typefaces on the façade. The weighing platform reads "STEP / ON / IT." When placed inside contemporary Art Deco-style buildings like Radio City Music Hall, the effect must have been striking indeed.
Charles Venable, "Height and weight meter (model S)," in _Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection_, ed. Jay Gates (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 254.