Description and Notes:
This is an early example of the famous Stephens No. 36 combination rule, as it is the patent date, Jan 12. 1858, rather than the model number, 36, is stamped on the surface of the stick. Therefore it may be dated to the 1860s. Although been constantly used over the years, this heavy duty rule is still in pretty good working order and is ready for the years to come. The joint is tight and the spirit level works perfectly. The swinging steel blade is pitted, but the graduations on which are still quite readable.
According to A Source Book for Rule Collectors, this is probably the most universal measuring tool ever made in America. For instance, it can be easily configured into a two-fold ruler, a try square, or an inclinometer. The image of the original US patent (19105) can be found here.
It is known that this rule has two other versions, the dimensions and functionalities of them are identical to the original, only the materials used are different. The Stephens No. 38 rule is made of ivory and nickel silver, and it is considered as the "Holy Grail" of rules by many rule collectors. The No. 40 is made of ebony and brass, the quantity of which is even scarcer than that of the No. 38, and, hence, it is also highly praised and sought after by the collectors. A picture of these legendary rules can be found in The Art of Fine Tools, p. 25.