Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Physical Sciences Collection - Surveying and Geodesy

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Tape (Paine)

Catalogue number:

"Patented July 10th & Aug 7th 1860"

case 10.25 inches high, 6.625 inches wide, tape .19 inches wide, 50 feet long


On July 10, 1860, William H. Paine of Sheboygan, Wisconsin received a patent (#29,096) for a light weight steel tape covered with tin to protect it from rust. The case, also described in the patent, was equipped with a thermometer for determining expansion or contraction, a set of ten taping pins, and a plate that served as an outkeeper. Paine's second patent (#29,514), dated August 7, 1860, described a continuous sheet metal measure with a gauge indicating expansion. In 1870, now living in Greenpoint, Long Island, Paine exhibited steel measuring tapes at the annual fair sponsored by the American Institute, and took home an honorable mention. Paine's complicated case, of which this object is a good example, did not remain long on the market. His steel tapes, however, encased in leather cases with flush handles, were still available in the 1920s.

Ref: "Improved Surveyor's Measure and Tackle Case," Scientific American 4 (1861): 104.

Further Information:

Surveyor's Tape