Sale of Bread By-Law 1869

City of Stratford Flashback Friday series created by Mike Beitz, Corporate Communications Lead, highlighting some of Stratford’s more interesting or unusual by-laws over the past 150 years.

Bylaw #137 – Sale of bread

On December 20, 1869, Stratford’s Town Council approved a by-law to regulate the sale of bread in the municipality and specifically its weight. By-law 137 reads:

Whereas it is desirable that the size or weight of bread sold or offered or exposed for sale in the Town of Stratford should be regulated and made certain.

Be it therefore enacted by the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Stratford and it is hereby enacted:

1st That all loaves of bread sold or offered or exposed for sale in the Town of Stratford shall be of the respective weights of two pounds and four pounds, and shall be known and denominated as a two pound loaf and a four pound loaf respectively.

It was not lawful, according to the by-law, to sell any loaves of bread “light in weight” or “any other or different weights than the said two pounds or four pounds.”

If a citizen complained of receiving an underweight loaf of bread, the by-law stipulated that the Town Constable, Mayor or Justice of the Peace could enter the bakery or shop to inspect and weigh its loaves of bread.

And it shall be his duty to seize, forfeit and curry away with him from out of any such bakery, shop or place wherein the same may be found, any and all loaves of a lighter weight than the said two pounds and four pounds respectively, which bread so taken shall become the property of the Town of Stratford and be subject to the order of the Relief Committee of the said Town.

So what was the penalty for selling a light loaf of bread?

Any person guilty of a violation or infraction of this By-law or any part thereof shall upon conviction hereof before any of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Perth be liable to a fine of fifty dollars …

($50 in 1869 was roughly equivalent to $1,000 today)

So what if a bread seller couldn’t pay that fine?

The Justice of the Peace could, under the by-law,

… commit the offender to the Common Gaol of the County of Perth for the space of twenty one days with hard labour.

FUN FACT: The term “baker’s dozen” is related to this. Bakers who were concerned about being penalized for selling underweight loaves would give the customer a little bit extra. Someone would ordered 12 loaves of bread would receive 13, just to be safe.