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The History of the Tape Measure

The first patent for a steel tape measure was granted in 1829 in Britain to a man named James Chesterman. Chesterman made “flat wire,” a material used to create crinoline hoop skirts, which had recently fallen out of fashion. To pivot his business, Chesterman began manufacturing tape measures that were contained in a donut-shaped leather case. The next tape measure innovation came from an American named Alvin J. Fellows, who patented the spring-click tape measure in 1868. His design allowed the user to lock the tape measure when it was extended. The tape measure was expensive, however, and didn’t catch on right away. In fact, it took until the mid-20th century for the tape measure to overtake the folding wooden carpenter’s ruler.

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