Lufkin Reliable Junior Tape Measure

This 25-foot metal tape measure is divided to 1/16". The first 3" of the tape has broken off, and white cloth tape is wrapped around the broken end. At 6" the back of the tape is marked: LUFKIN. A brown leather case is marked on both sides: RELIABLE JUNIOR (/) PATENTED (/) 25 FT (/) LUFKIN RULE CO. (/) SAGINAW, MICH. USA. Pressing a metal button on one side of the case causes the metal crank handle on the other side to pop out. This handle is wound clockwise to retract the measure. It is marked: PATENTED (/) MAY 23, 1893.
The Lufkin Board and Log Rule Company of Cleveland, Ohio, began making steel tape measures in 1887 and moved to Saginaw, Mich., in 1892. Fred Buck (1858–1938), the company's general manager, applied for a patent on an extending crank attached to a revolving drum in 1892 and received it the next year. He received a second patent for a tape measure crank in 1907 that was advertised on the Reliable Junior product line by 1916. By 1903, Lufkin was the largest manufacturer of steel measuring tapes in the United States. The brand was taken over by Cooper Industries in 1967. The donor found this particular rule in a trapper's cabin in the mountains of British Columbia.
References: Fred Buck, "Tape Measure" (U.S. Patent 498,104 issued May 23, 1893) and "Tape Measure" (U.S. Patent 873,712 issued December 17, 1907); Lufkin Rule Company, Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of Steel Measuring Tapes (Saginaw, Mich., 1893), 2; Lufkin Rule Company, Catalogue of Measuring Tapes, Rules, Etc. (Saginaw, 1897), 4–6; Lufkin Rule Company, Measuring Tapes and Rules, cat. no. 9 (Saginaw, [1916]); Ed Fehn, "Milestones of the Lufkin Rule Company,"; State of Michigan, "The Lufkin Rule Company," in Twentieth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics (Lansing: Robert Smith Printing Co., 1903), 372.
Currently not on view
Object Name
tape measure
date made
Lufkin Rule Company
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
leather (overall material)
overall: 2.3 cm x 6 cm x 6 cm; 29/32 in x 2 3/8 in x 2 3/8 in
place made
United States: Michigan, Saginaw
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Scale Rules
Science & Mathematics
Measuring & Mapping
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 Nathanael P. Vereide
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

9/17/2015 1:21:34 PM
joe Belisle
I have a CHALLENGE JUNIOR STEEL TAPE MADE IN USA flip side THE LUFKIN RULE CO 25FT. SAGINAW, MICH. U S A The rule was my fathers. Unfortunately, the tape is broken. i was curious and looked it up. Thank you for the information. Joe Belisle
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