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Local News

February 19, 2014

Do you know what this is?

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a folding measuring ruler.

A couple people submitted guesses as to the identity of the artifact.

Dan Kalbach wrote via email: “The item shown is a cabinet makers folding rule.  These were often made of ivory or bone, with metal joints.  I still have my great-great grandfather Isaac's example from his cabinet-making days in the 1850's.

Dorothy Vos also wrote via email: “The artifact is a folding steel tape measure.  Could possibly be the one that used to be in the Kalbach lumber building.”      

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “FOLDING MEASURING RULER

Convenient, portable and accurate, this folding ruler was a popular measuring device for more than a century until the invention of the modern retractable tape measure. Well made and dependable, these folding rulers came in 12 inches to multi-yard lengths but folded small enough to fit in a back pocket.

The ruler in the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum Collection is small, only 16 inches long. All hinges, end guards, and fastening brads are solid brass. The design is what makes it beautiful, simple and effective. Four individual sections hinged together (a circular hinge at the center with two barrel hinges joining the two side sections), enabling it to fold down to pocket-size and able to unfold straight as an arrow after more than a century.

This ruler does not have a manufacturer’s label, but the style is most like those made by Upson Nut Co. The Upson Nut Co. of Connecticut and Lufkin Tool Co. of Michigan were two manufacturers this type of measuring tool. Stanley Tool Co purchased Upson Nut Company sometime in the 1890s and continued to manufacture this style ruler until the 1920s. Lufkin Tool Co. took Upson’s folding ruler concept and design a few feet further. Their rulers are a bit longer, hinged to fold accordion style, and have been in production for nearly 75 years.”

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