Friday, June 21, 2013

The Other One I Thought Might Be Out There

Remember the "Roller Rule?"


As I struggled to determine who the inventor of the Roller Rule was in an article I wrote last year ("The Only Thing I Accomplished That Day," June 19, 2012), it probably looked like I was being overly cautious to eliminate any possibility that anyone other than John Hoe Morehead invented it. But I just kept having this nagging feeling, and I don’t know why, that someone else might be out there, marketing a pencil that was called the "Roller Rule."

Turns out I might have been right. Look what turned up in an online auction a couple weeks ago:


Whether you call that oversized dial a monstrosity or ubercool, I doubt you’d be able to say it’s like anything else you’ve seen:


Best of all, this one came in the box with papers. And worst of all, the paperwork identifies this only as the "Roller Rule" without any mention of who made it:


"A Thousand and One Uses," huh? Name ‘em. I dare ya. Not that I’d turn something like this one down if you could only come up with a thousand . . . heck, come up with three or four and I’d be satisfied.
Part of the reason I doubt this is from John Hoe Morehead’s workshop is that the slogan is different from the one carried on all of his Roller Rules:


Instead of "The Pencil With a Brain," this Roller Rule "Measures As It Rolls." Not the most inspiring slogan – but I’ll even forgive that. There’s something else about this that isn’t consistent with the Roller Rules I’ve seen before:


The dial indicates it was made in Germany, and the spelling of "Centimetres" and "Kilometres," not to mention the metric references, suggests that unlike Morehead’s Roller Rule, which was made in the U.S., this one was made abroad for export to the United States (the paperwork also indicates that the pencil has an "Inch-o-meter"). Another difference, which I grudgingly admit, is that this is a much more precise measuring device – something I suppose I should expect from a German technical instrument. A second piece of paper that accompanied this one indicates that the primary purpose of these pencils was to measure distances on maps:


The tiny wheel moves easily to trace distances not only in straight lines ("as the crow flies," as the saying around here goes), but also through the winding curves of the most challenging country roads. And, in case you are wondering what the "Compass" reference means on the dial, just turn the pencil over:


Yeah, I may profess to collect only American pencils, but my willpower was no match for something as interesting as this!