U.S. Yard Standard and Matrix

This brass yard standard and matrix are stored in a mahogany case with brass handles on either end and brass hooks to secure the lid, one of which no longer closes. The yard standard has extensions on either side which make it 104 cm (41") long. The yard fits into a matrix, which is divided into tenths, with the first division also divided into tenths. The yard and matrix each weigh 13 lbs., 4 oz. The case also contains 4 mahogany wedges and 3 mahogany rectangles, each less than 7 cm long. A scriber and square were originally in the case.
This yard standard is one of those distributed by the Treasury Department to the states after Congress set standard measures on June 14, 1833. Sets of weights were distributed to the states by 1838. Metric length standards were distributed to the states and to customhouses into the 1860s. The Bureau of Standards transferred this object to the Smithsonian in 1929.
Reference: Rexmond C. Cochrane, Measures for Progress (Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Standards, 1966), p. 27-28.
Currently not on view
Object Name
scale rule
date made
United States Office of Weights and Measures
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
mahogany (overall material)
overall: 8.5 cm x 122.4 cm x 16.5 cm; 3 11/32 in x 48 3/16 in x 6 1/2 in
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Scale Rules
Science & Mathematics
Weights & Measures
Metric System
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Scale Rules
Metric System
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from Bureau of Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.