Surveyor’s Chain


In the colonial period and throughout the nineteenth century, most American surveyors measured distances with chains. The favored form was the Gunter, introduced by the English mathematician, Edmund Gunter, in 1620. The standard Gunter chain has 100 links and measures 66 feet (or 4 poles) overall. Thus 80 chains equal a mile, and 10 square chains equal an acre. This example is a half-Gunter, with 50 links measuring 33 feet overall. It is one of several instruments that James Griswold used to lay out the New York and Erie Canal.

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Place: United States: Connecticut, Ridgefield

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences, Natural Resources, Measuring & Mapping, Artifact Walls exhibit


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Preston R. Bassett

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.319344Accession Number: 236805Catalog Number: 319344

Object Name: surveyor's chain (half-Gunter)surveyor's chain

Physical Description: iron (overall material)brass (overall material)Measurements: overall: 10.06 m; 33 ftoverall; folded: 2 in x 10 in x 5 3/4 in; 5.08 cm x 25.4 cm x 14.605 cm


Record Id: nmah_1065091

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.