Hinged Parallel Rule Signed D. W. Bellows

This 24" boxwood instrument has two blades held together by three metal (possibly copper) hinges. The middle hinge is curved and has a slide with a thumbscrew that allows the user to fix the separation between the blades at a desired width. This hinge is marked: PAT APL'D FOR. The top blade is 1/2" wide and 22" long. The bottom blade is 7/8" wide, divided to 1/2", and numbered by ones from 1 to 12 to 1. The back is marked: D. W. BELLOWS (/) MFR. (/) PAWTUCKET, R.I.
Dexter W. Bellows (1856–1940) was a funeral director in Pawtucket, R.I., from 1892 until his death. He designed this rule in 1896 to assist in placing handles evenly along the sides of caskets. No patent record has been found, but the National Casket Company of Baltimore is known to have distributed the rule.
References: Peggy A. Kidwell, "American Parallel Rules: Invention on the Fringes of Industry," Rittenhouse 10, no. 39 (1996): 90–96; "The Bellows Gauge for Placing Casket Handles," Providence Journal of Commerce (1896): 32; Bellows Funeral Chapel, "Our History," http://www.bellowsfuneralchapel.com/?page=ourhistory0.
Currently not on view
Object Name
parallel rule
date made
Bellows, Dexter W.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 2.3 cm x 61 cm x 3.5 cm; 29/32 in x 24 1/32 in x 1 3/8 in
place made
United States: Rhode Island, Pawtucket
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Parallel Rules
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object