Lately I’ve been accumulating various comic-book stories of big industry with titles such as “Rubber, a Wonder Story,” and “The Story of Shoes Through the Ages.” These were once popular ways for large companies to educate kids (and adults) on the history of an industry, and were often distributed free to schools. Of course in addition to a history of rubber production or shoes, there was always a message about the sponsoring company — an easy way to build brand awareness with the young.
The first I’m choosing to highlight here is “The Amazing Story of Measurement” from the tool company Lufkin, still today a leader in precision measurement tools. The booklet is from 1949, although the company was established in 1869 in Cleveland, Ohio. There is no artist credit, although I can barely make out a signature, E.L. Stoner, on one of the drawings. Click on any image for a larger version.
As you might imagine, the art of measuring goes back a ways — the booklet begins with early cave men who used sticks and body parts to measure out various things.
And of course we have the Egyptians to thank for many early measurement standards — the pyramids alone required quite a bit of precision.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that the rod was established as the length of the left feet of the first 16 men out of church on a certain Sunday. Why there weren’t better standards the booklet does not explain — it doesn’t seem like it would have been that hard to make one master measurement tool and then duplicate it for consistency.
And like so many things, measurements became somewhat political and very regional.
Obviously this diversity of standards lead to a lot of confusion and it took the British to promote consistency and enforce it throughout its empire.
But there were still a lot of odd measurement standards throughout the world.
And politics continued to play a pivotal role in the development of measuring standards.
A conflict between the British system (which was exported to America) and the more common metric decimal system used elsewhere, is still a problem today. As early as 1866 an effort was made to switch America to the metric system, without success. We’re still struggling with that switch.
We learn through the story of Lufkin just how important precision measurement is to our lives and our industries. Everything from airplanes to railroad engines requires the use of accurate measuring tools.
The comic book format is an interesting way to tell the story of an industry, though it does tend to trivialize things a bit and historical accuracy may be a little shaky. But in an era where schoolbooks are so expensive and schools so short of cash, maybe it’s time for more industries to step up once again and provide free propaganda with an educational bent. Is there an app for that?Tags