Dutch El

This layered, curved wooden rule has a twisted handle with an ivory crown at the end. A piece of whalebone (2.4 X 1.5 cm) is carved with two horizontal lines and an "X" and is fastened to the rule just below the handle. The measuring part of the rule is 52 cm (20-1/2") long, considerably shorter than the average Dutch el (68–72 cm), a traditional "arm's length" measure used before The Netherlands adopted the metric system in 1820. Also unlike Dutch els such as MA*318246, MA*318247, and MA*325404, there are no grooves marking off distances. Instead, horizontal rows of three nails are placed 5, 9.2, 17.8, and 35 cm from the base of the handle. A diagonal row of four nails is adjacent to the last horizontal row. One layer of wood has been removed from the tip of the rule.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scale rule
date made
before 1820
Physical Description
whalebone (overall material)
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: .7 cm x 68.7 cm x 1.6 cm; 9/32 in x 27 1/16 in x 5/8 in
place made
Netherlands, The
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


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