Almanac: Measuring tape

Almanac: Measuring tape
Almanac: Measuring tape 02:03

On July 14th, 1868, 151 years ago today, Alvin Fellows, of New Haven, Connecticut, patented his "new and useful improvement in spring measuring tapes."

Though not the first, Fellows' design is widely regarded as the forerunner of the device used to this day.

Countless instructional videos demonstrate tape measure use, some less-than-obvious. For example, watch Tom Silva, of the PBS show "This Old House," divide a 37 5/8ths-inch board in half without doing the math, just by arbitrarily measuring a 40-inch diagonal:

How to Find Measurements Without Math | Ask Tommy | Ask This Old House by This Old House on YouTube

While in the 1964 movie "Mary Poppins," Julie Andrews found a more fanciful use:

Down to the 1/16th inch. Walt Disney Pictures

Back in the real world, the National Institute of Standards and Technology certifies tape measure accuracy, with six-foot tapes required to be correct to within a 32nd of an inch.

And so on this day some actually celebrate as National Tape Measure Day, we pose this question:  When it comes to using Alvin Fellows' tape, can we honestly say that we measure up?

"How It's Made" took us into the measuring tape factory:

How Its Made - 447 Tape Measures by How Its Made on YouTube

Story produced by Robert Marston.