Historical information

This item was used to measure accurately the length of cloth on a bolt of material without unwinding it. It also measured lace, all types of textiles and spools of ribbon. It is surmised it would have been used in general stores or department stores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This item was discovered in the late 1980s behind an old safe at Swintons Stores in Timor Street in Warrnambool. The item appears to have been used extensively and would have been very useful during a stocktake. It may have been used in the Swinton Stores which were first established in Timor Street in 1865 with one section of the stores selling furnishings, furniture, clothing and clothing materials. The item was manufactured by A.E. Putnam of Iowa, U.S.A. There was a patent registered in 1896 and a later 'improved' model with a patent date of 1907.


This item is of considerable interest because of its rarity and survival, its connection to Warrnambool General Stores in the past and its value as a research tool in local social and economic history. The possible connection to Swintons Stores is important as this business operated from 1865 to 2024 and was one of the longest-surviving family businesses in Australia.

Physical description

This is a rectangular-shaped wooden pole with one slightly flattened side and numbers marked on each side in patterns resembling brick walls. At the top of the pole are two wooden pieces attached to the pole by metal clips held by screws. The two wooden pieces are attached at a slight angle to the pole. The lower wooden piece is movable along the pole and has incised numbers. The wooden pieces are rectangular in shape with a large curved piece cut out to form the shape of a pennant. The maker's name is incised into the metal on the top attached wooden piece.

Inscriptions & markings

Putnam's Cloth Chart Copyrighted 1896 Patent Pend'g