A Brief History of the Ruler

Since we are titled, ‘The Ruler Company’, we thought it was about time we shared a brief history of the ruler with you. The ruler didn’t appear out of thin air, and it actually started life slightly different from how you see them today.

This blog post will take you on a journey, all the way back to 2650 BC.

The First Ruler

In the past, humans have used body parts as ways to measure distances or objects, for example, a hand or foot. The first noted ruler in history, however, dates back to 2650 BC. The first ruler did not look like the ones we have in our stockroom. The first ruler was actually a copper alloy rod; however, there were rulers made of ivory in 1500 BC.

The Metric System

The metric system is the decimal measuring system based on the litre, metre and gram as units of capacity, length and weight/mass. In 1799, the metric system was introduced as the existing system was impractical for trade during the French Revolution. The idea was first proposed in 1670; however, it was only standardised in the 1790s, by the French.

The metric system was then introduced into the UK at the start of 1965.

Different Forms of Rulers

The wooden ruler dates back to the 16th Century; however, we now have different forms of rulers. For example, we have metal, wooden, rubber and folding rulers to use. The first folding ruler was created in 1851 by Anton Ullrich. The first flexible ruler, however, was invented back in 1902 by Frank Hunt.

Other forms of rulers include a desk ruler, a steel ruler, a carpenter's rule, a seamstress tape and even a tape measure.

Uses of a Ruler

A ruler has had many uses throughout history but has always been a prominent tool in Geometry. Different types of rulers can be used in different industries, for example, in tailoring, software, architecture, design and more. The printing industry and other industries utilise different types of rulers as well. The most notable use of a ruler, however, is in office spaces and schools. A pencil case for school, college or university is not complete without a durable and reliable ruler.


We are happy to answer any additional questions you might have about rulers or any of the products in our collection. Simply contact our team at The Ruler Company by filling out our online form.