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Random Artifact Time: Gunter’s Chain


A Gunter’s Chain is a tool that was used by surveyors as a means of measuring land. This tool was named after Edmund Gunter, the English mathematician and astronomer who invented it in 1620. A Gunter’s chain is 66 feet long and divided into 100 links with each link measuring 7.92 inches. In this system, 10 square chains equals 1 acre and 80 chains equals 1 statute mile.

The Gunter’s chain would become a standard tool for surveyors in England and throughout the English Colonies and Territories (This included the United States as a former colony). “Link and Chain” are official measurements used in British Imperial Units. Gunter’s chains eventually were replaced by steel ribbon tape, a type of wound tape measure.

Surveying land was important to the PA lumber industry as accurate measurements were required for sale, transfer and harvest of individual timber tracts. Later as the Commonwealth started to purchase and acquire deforested land, surveyors were used to measure out boundaries for state forest and park land. Though Gunter’s chains are now obsolete as a surveying tool, knowledge of their use and measurements in links and chains is useful when dealing with old land deeds and maps.

This Gunter’s Chain (L69.1.42) was donated by the Penn State School of Forestry.