A Fine Early 20thC Carved Bone Novelty Tape Measure in the Form of a Mermaid

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Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900-20
Diameter: 1.75 inches (at maximum)


The small hand carved bone novelty tape measure intricately worked to form a mermaid, the finned tail retracting to 150cms/59 inches as the tape, the mermaid body acting as the housing with carved breasts, face, arms and long hair flanked by knob finials used to reel the tape back in.

In very good overall condition with a beautiful mellow patination to bone it proves immensely tactile and the measures mechanical function is in sound working order.

The first record of the use of the tape measure was by the Romans using marked strips of leather. On 3 January 1922, Hiram Farrand received the patent he filed in 1919. Sometime between 1922 and December 1926, Farrand experimented with the help of The Brown Company in Berlin, New Hampshire. It is there Hiram and W.W. Brown began mass-producing the tape measure.  This example predates that kind of mass production.

A truly whimsical curio with stacks of nautical charm. Who said beauty wasn’t useful?

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