Folding Yardstick with Comparative Measures

This European brass rule consists of twelve segments, ten that are 10.5 cm (4-1/4") long and two that are 9.6 cm (3-3/4") long. The segments are riveted together end to end to form a rule about 104 cm (41") long. On one side the rule has scales for Paris and London inches, numbered by ones from 1 to 36. The other side has scales for Venice and Vienna inches, numbered by ones from 1 to 36. On each of the four scales, the first inch is divided to 1/12" and the rest are divided to 1/2".
According to the rule, the Paris inch was 1-3/32" long, the London inch was 1", the Venice inch was 1-1/8", and the Vienna inch was 1-1/32". These lengths are within range of the pre-metric system national standards reported by contemporary arithmetic textbooks and modern historians.
References: Charles Hutton, A Philosophical and Mathematical Dictionary, new ed. (London, 1815), ii:35–36; Philip E. Stanley, A Source Book for Rule Collectors (Mendham, N.J.: Astragal Press, 2003), 242–252.
Currently not on view
Object Name
rule, folding
scale rule, folding
date made
18th century
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: .1 cm x 105 cm x 1.1 cm; 1/32 in x 41 11/32 in x 7/16 in
place made
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Scale Rules
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Rule, Measuring
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Scale Rules
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Hermon W. Farwell
Additional Media

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