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JOEL Joel's Blog

A Measuring Souvenir


A Measuring Souvenir 1
After I wrote last week's blog about rulers, I put all the various rulers back in their respective toolboxes -- all but the advertising tape measure, which somehow was was neglected and left behind. Since I was too lazy to put it away properly, the advertising tape measure ended up on my desk, where I inevitably have been playing with it for the past week. After a while I got curious about it. Who made it? Whose advertising was it? And how did it end up in my house?

Some of these questions are pretty easy. I hadn't noticed it before, but the very tip of the ruler has the Lufkin trademark. The rule was obviously made by Lufkin, one of the giant measuring and precision rule manufacturers of the twentieth century. While stylistically this tape measure could date anywhere from the late 1930's to the 1950's I don't have a catalog from the period to check. It's not in a circa 1920 Lufkin general catalog I have which devoted a page to advertising rules and how effective they were at selling. The catalog even notes that Lufkin had a separate forty page catalog just devoted to various types of advertising rules.

Fully extended, the rule is 96" long (eight feet) but there is no auto retract or lock. It's a real rule, not a toy. The die-cast case is solid, and the rule is small enough to easily fit in your pocket. It works very well and smoothly. I saw a picture of another one on the Internet, but mine is in basically perfect, never-really-used condition.

The advertising plate, which is just a printed enamel shield, is the only customization on the rule, and we can see it was a promotion by Coast Federal Savings, specifically the 9th & Hill Building branch in Los Angeles, California. The Tucker 1351 at the bottom was probably the phone number. "Tucker" is the phone exchange in Los Angles and the TU-1351 is a 2 letter/four-digit phone number, which means it probably dates from the late 30s or early 40s (California switched to 2 letter/five-digit phone exchanges after WWII).

The Coast Federal Savings Building branch at 315 W. 9th Street was in one of the grand of office buildings of LA, and the building itself was used in other advertising. Coast Federal is long gone, but the building remains, and continues its banking tradition today as home of a branch of Chase.

But the real sixty four dollar question is, how did the rule end up in my tool collection? I have no recollection of buying it and it doesn't seem like something I would buy anyway. So I must have gotten it via one of three routes: (1) my father, who as far as I know never traveled to California, but would admire this little measure; (2) From an uncle or another relative, who served in the Pacific during WWII and would have been in California en route or during wartime leaves; or (3) the most likely - the tape measure was in a batch of tools given to me by my woodworking teacher Maurice Fraser, who also had a distinguished tour of duty in the Pacific, including guarding Imperial Japanese Army General Tojo Hideki in Sugamo Prison.

For me, every tool has a story. I am fascinated not only in tools' technology but also their history and their place in the makers' and owners' lives. Sometimes my interest in a tool drives me to the history books and websites. In this case, a simple tape measure was handy for illustrating a blog, but my basic curiosity was engaged by the story behind it.
A Measuring Souvenir 2

here is how the building looks today
Here is a link to a early Lufkin catalog

Here is an early television commercial from the 1960s for Coast Federal Savings featuring the 9th and Hill building:

Just submitted by one of our readers - Christopher Thomas owes and uses a Lufkin W-928 which is apparently the correct part number for this tape. I want to thank him and everyone for their comments and contributions it's amazing to me how much we can find out about anything if we just ask!

Christopher Thomas's Lufkin W-928
Christopher Thomas's Lufkin W-928

Join the conversation
07/10/2019 Stan P
I’m sure you have already had emails or comments. 96” is a little more than six feet. I’m just glad I’m not the only one who could do that. Keep up the good blogs.
07/10/2019 Randy Allender
I looked at the Lufkin catalog and on page 100 there is a tape
that looks similar to yours. I enjoy your blog. please keep up
to good work. thanks
07/10/2019 Rob Hildebrand
My dad (would be 97 this year) had the same tape, but with a green label and ribs on the outside where yours is smooth. It seems to me that it lived in his pocket as far back as I can remember, at least to the early '60s. I have it now. Unfortunately I can't read the label.
07/10/2019 Paul Baker
Hey Joel--thanks for another thought-provoking blog (love the detail about your teacher guarding one of THE top "players" in WWII. Wow!! As for the tape measure, man, I wouldn't mind having one of those. Talk about the *quality* of days gone by. Nice solid metal *enameled* name plate in a really cool orange/red. I can just see the campaign the tape was part of: "Our Service Measures Up!" or maybe "Measure Once, Cut Twice, Save Three Times, with Coast Federal". Sure beats the cheapo ball point pens that banks give out these days. And kudos to Coast for partnering w/ Lufkin (top, top name in the biz) and not buying some cheap over-seas knockoff import.
07/11/2019 Christopher J. Thomas
Nice chatting with you. I have the very same tape rule, Lufkin with the flush tip.
The name plate is green and simply says (reads) "Lufkin white clad 8 FT. Mezurall® serial W-928"
The only difference on my tape is the numerals are plain type and not the beautiful numerals on yours with the serifs. Die cast case is identical to yours.
I fished it out of a jumble sale at our local Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee for 10 cents,
covered with dirt!
Haven't any idea as how to send you a photo...It's in perfect shape...
07/11/2019 Chris
Paramount studies is just 5 miles from the 9th Avenue Coast Federal Savings building. Maybe this tape measure was used by a young carpenter on one of those golden age of Hollywood sets for a Henry Fonda or Ginger Rogers Movie? or by a dress maker to measure fabric for Marilyn Monroe! Did you say it was 96" or 36"?

I know you mention the Lufkin Trademark, but in that same archive there is Millers Falls Catalog which has a pic of what appears to be your Coast Federal Savings tape measure.
07/12/2019 Viti Svikla
Look up or Google International tool catalog
You will end up spending hours on the site,I have.
Have fun
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.