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Names to conjure with… These four American brands are not names most people today know – most collectors of rules wouldn’t even know them. They’re not included in the big three, or the magic five. They didn’t make general purpose rules, or rules for carpenters, joiners, builders or metalworkers. Even at the height of their fame, the average citizen would not know them (or at least, would not know them for rules). And yet, they made exceptional measuring instruments dedicated to specific trades from fine materials with an absolute commitment to quality and utility. They all originated in the 19th century, and most were gone before the end of it, with one surviving a few years into the twentieth.

The Kerby & Bro. mark is on the finest sliding shoe and foot gauge in my collection. The Eberhard Faber mark is on a patented concave rule with a brass edge strip designed specifically for tearing paper against (Eberhard Faber was a pioneer of the American pencil industry). The Davidson Mark is on an absolutely delightful rule for tailor’s and seamstress dedicated to spacing buttons – I have never seen another. Davidson at one time shared an address with, and collaborated with, Kerby & Bro. Finally, the Griffith mark is on a long, curved tailor’s rule used for transferring measurements accurately from a person to a piece of fabric – I as yet know nothing about this maker, but they are on my (long) list of research projects.

Boxwood and brass. Fine workmanship for fine workmen. American as apple pie. The rich patina of history. And, a little mystery, as many of the lives and stories behind these names are lost or obscured by the passing of time. What more could anyone ask?

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