Dutch El

This wooden rectangular rule consists of a carved handle resembling a finial and a tapered, ruled part. The handle is made from a separate piece of wood and attached to the ruled part with a peg. There is an inlaid piece of mother of pearl (1.6 cm X 1.5 cm) on one side. The ruled part is about 71.5 cm long, slightly longer than the average Dutch el (68–70 cm), a traditional "arm's-length" measure.
The rule is marked with grooves (each approximately 1 mm wide) on 2 sides. On the side with the museum mark, the grooves are 3.7, 5.3, 10.3, 20.9, 38.2, and 55.3 cm from the base of the handle (or 68.8, 66.2, 61.2, 50.6, 33.3, and 16.2 cm from the tip). On the side with the mother of pearl piece, the grooves are 27.5, 32.4, 52.5, and 62.6 cm from the base of the handle (or 44.0, 3.1, 19.0, and 9.0 cm from the tip). The mother of pearl inlay is 22.3 cm from the base of the handle (49.2 cm from the tip). Compare to MA*318247, MA*318248, and MA*325404.
Reference: Russ Rowlett, How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement, July 11, 2005, http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/index.html.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scale rule
date made
before 1820
Physical Description
mother of pearl (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 1.5 cm x 81 cm x 1.6 cm; 19/32 in x 31 7/8 in x 5/8 in
place made
The Netherlands
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Rule, Measuring
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
Scale Rules
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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