This steel tape is graduated in 100ths of a foot on one side, and links and poles on the
other. There are joints every 20 feet. The case is leather with a brass handle. The signature
refers to James Chesterman (1795-1867), a metal worker in Sheffield, England. In 1821
Chesterman received a British patent for a method of using a spring to rewind measuring tapes
automatically. In 1842 Chesterman and James Bottom patented a woven cloth tape that
incorporated strands of wire. Chesterman's 1853 patented process for heat treating long strips of
steel led to the manufacture of steel tapes that remained virtually unchanged for over 50 years.
Scientific American called attention to Chesterman & Co. in 1869, noting that their patent steel
tape "is about the most unique thing of the kind we have ever seen," and mentioning its
portability, neatness, and exact measuring capability. W. & L. E. Gurley offered Chesterman
steel tapes as early as 1871, describing them as "made of a thin ribbon of steel, which is jointed
at intervals, and wound up in a leathern case, having a folding handle." Gurley went on to say
that these tapes were the best on the market, but at $17, their "great cost" prevented their general
use. Gurley also sold Chesterman tapes of cloth reinforced with wire; these cost but $5.25.
Ref: "Steel Measuring Tapes," Scientific American 21 (1869): 216.
W. & L. E. Gurley, Manual of the Principal Instruments Used in American Engineering
and Surveying (Troy, N.Y., 1871), p. 132, and price list.
James Chesterman & Co., Chesterman's Patent Measures, Engineers' Tools, &c.
(Sheffield, n.d.), pp. 16-17.
Douglas J. Hallam, The First 200 Years. A Short History of Rabone Chesterman Limited