The collection
Three pairs of different sized calipers. Each is a pair of tapering, curved metal pieces that move on a hinge and meet at their points.
before 1934

Outside Firm-Joint Calipers

Designed by
Tempered steel
Produced by
Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Company, Providence, Rhode Island
Largest: 21.6 × 16.5 x 1.3 cm

The Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design, gift of S. Bernard Paré, 2012.18

Calipers were used by ancient Greeks and Romans to precisely measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object, exactly as they are used today. In modern times, such handheld tools are admired for their simple, functional designs.

The shape of the calipers themselves—the elegant, tapering, curved forms, connected by a single perfect circle at the joint—is aesthetically pleasing on its own. The smooth steel conveys a quality of perfection, particularly prized by architects.

The Stewart Program for Modern Design, photo: Denis Farley.