German obsolete units of measurement

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The obsolete units of measurement of German-speaking countries consist of a variety of units, with varying local standard definitions. Some of these units are still used in everyday speech and even in stores and on street markets as shorthand for similar amounts in the metric system. For example, some customers ask for one pound (ein Pfund) of something when they want (exactly) 500 grams.

The metric system became compulsory on January 1, 1872, in Germany and on January 1, 1876, in Austria.[1]

Some obsolete German units have names similar to units that were traditionally used in other countries, and that are still used in the United Kingdom (imperial units) and the United States (United States customary units).


German system[edit]

Before the introduction of the metric system in German, almost every town had its own definitions of the units shown below. Often towns posted the local definitions on a wall of the city hall. For example, the front wall of the old city hall (still standing) has two marks which show the "Rudolstädter Elle"; it was to be used in that city. Supposedly by 1810, in Baden alone, there were 112 different standards for the Elle around Germany.[citation needed]

Length[edit]

Meile (mile)[edit]

A German geographic mile (geographische Meile) is defined as 115 equatorial degrees, equal to 7,420.54 m (24,345.6 ft). A common German mile, land mile, or post mile (Gemeine deutsche Meile, Landmeile, Postmeile) was defined in various ways at different places and different times. After the introduction of the metric system in the 19th century, the Landmeile was generally fixed at 7,500 m (24,606 ft) (the Reichsmeile), but before then there were many local and regional variants (of which some are shown below):

Some kinds of Meile
Place Distance
in metres (feet)
Notes
Bavaria (Bayern) 7,415 m (24,327 ft) Connected to a 115 equatorial degree as 25,406 Bavarian feet.
Württemberg 7,449 m (24,439 ft)
Reichsmeile 7.5 km (4.7 mi)
7,500 m (24,606 ft)
'imperial mile' – New mile when the metric system was introduced. Prohibited by law in 1908.
Anhalt 7,532 m (24,711 ft)
Denmark, Prussia 7,532 m (24,711 ft) 24,000 Prussian feet. Also known as "(Dänische/Preußische) Landmeile". In 1816, king Frederick William III of Prussia adopted the Danish mile at 7,532 m (24,711 ft), or 24,000 Prussian feet.
Saxony (Sachsen) 7,500 m (24,606 ft) In the 17th–18th century or so, 9,062 m (29,731 ft) = 32000 (Saxon) feet; later 7,500 m (24,606 ft) (as in Prussia and the rest of Germany).
Schleswig-Holstein 8,803 m (28,881 ft)
Baden 8,000 m (26,247 ft) 8889 m before 1810, 8,944 m (29,344 ft) before 1871
Hessen-Kassel 9,206 m (30,203 ft)
Lippe-Detmold 9,264 m (30,394 ft)
Saxony (Sachsen) 9,062 m (29,731 ft) 32,000 (Saxon) feet (in the 19th century 7,500 m or 24,606 ft see above).
Westfalia (Westfalen) 11,100 m (36,417 ft) but also 9,250 m (30,348 ft)
Oldenburg 9,894 m (32,461 ft)
Rhineland (Rheinland) 4,119 m (13,514 ft)
Palatinate (Pfalz) 4,630 m (15,190 ft)
Osnabrück/Frankreich 5,160 m (16,929 ft)
Wiesbaden 1,000 m (3,281 ft)

Rute (rod)[edit]

A standard at the City Hall in Münster, Germany from 1816; the bar shown is one "Prussian half rod" long.

The Rute or Ruthe is of Carolingian origin,[citation needed] and was used as a land measure. Many different kinds of Ruthe were used at various times in various parts of the German-speaking world. They were subdivided into differing numbers of local Fuß, and were of many different lengths. One source from 1830[2] lists the following:

Some kinds of Ruthe
Place Name Local equivalent Metric (Imperial) equivalentst
Aachen (Aix-la-Capelle) Feldmeßruthe 16 Fuß 4.512 m (14 ft 9.6 in)
Baden (Großherzogtum) Ruthe 10 Fuß 3 m (9 ft 10 in)
Basel, Canton of Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.864 m (15 ft 11.5 in)
Bern, Canton of Ruthe 10 Fuß 2.932 m (9 ft 7.4 in)
Braunschweig (Brunswick) Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.565 m (14 ft 11.7 in)
Bremen Ruthe 8 Ellen or 16 Fuß 4.626 m (15 ft 2.1 in)
Calenberg Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.677 m (15 ft 4.1 in)
Cassel, Hessen Ruthe 14 Fuß 4.026 m (13 ft 2.5 in)
Hamburg Geestruthe 16 Fuß 4.583 m (15 ft 0.4 in)
Hamburg Marschruthe 14 Fuß 4.010 m (13 ft 1.9 in)
Hannover Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.671 m (15 ft 3.9 in)
Lever, Oldenburg Ruthe 20 Fuß 4.377 m (14 ft 4.3 in)
Mecklenburg Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.655 m (15 ft 3.3 in)
Nürnberg, Bavaria Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.861 m (15 ft 11.4 in)
Oldenburg Ruthe 20 Fuß 5.927 m (19 ft 5.3 in)
Prussia, Rheinland Ruthe 12 Fuß 3.766 m (12 ft 4.3 in)
Saxony Ruthe 16 Leipziger Fuß 4.512 m (14 ft 9.6 in)
Waadt, Canton of Ruthe or toise courante 10 Fuß 3 m (9 ft 10 in)
Würtemberg Reichsruthe 10 Fuß 2.865 m (9 ft 4.8 in)
Würtemberg old Ruthe 16 Fuß 4.583 m (15 ft 0.4 in)
Zürich, Canton of Ruthe 10 Fuß 3.009 m (9 ft 10.5 in)
Except where noted, based on Niemann (1830).[2] The value of the local Fuß also varied widely.

Wegstunde[edit]

One hour's travel, used up to the 18th century. In Germany 12 Meile or 3.71 km (2.31 mi), in Switzerland 16,000 ft or 4.88 km.

Klafter (fathom)[edit]

Originally 6 feet, after introduction of the metric system 10 feet. Regional variants from 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) in Baden to 3 m (9 ft 10 in) in Switzerland.

Lachter[edit]

Main article: Lachter

The Lachter was the most common unit of length used in mining in German-speaking areas. Its exact length varied from place to place but was roughly between 1.9 and 2.1 metres (6 ft 3 in and 6 ft 11 in).

Elle (ell)[edit]

Distance between elbow and fingertip. In the North, often 2 feet, In Prussia 178 feet, in the South variable, often 2 12 feet. The smallest known German Elle is 402.8 mm (15.86 in), the longest 811 mm (31.9 in).

Fuß (foot)[edit]

The Fuß or German foot varied widely from place to place in the German-speaking world, and also with time. In some places, more than one type of Fuß was in use. One source from 1830[2] gives the following values:

Some kinds of Fuß
Place Name Local equivalent Metric (Imperial) equivalents
 
Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) Feldmaßfuß 16 Klafter 282 mm (11.10 in)
Aachen Baufuß 116 Ruthe 288 mm (11.34 in)
Aargau, Canton of [Fuß] 300 mm (11.81 in)
Aichstadt, Bavaria old Fuß 307 mm (12.09 in)
Altona, Holstein [Fuß] 286 mm (11.26 in)
Anspach, Bavaria Werkfuß 299 mm (11.77 in)
Appenzell, Canton of [Fuß] 313 mm (12.32 in)
Aschaffenberg, Bavaria [Fuß] 288 mm (11.34 in)
Augsburg, Bavaria Werkschuh 296 mm (11.65 in)
Baden Reichsfuß 10 Zoll, 110 Ruthe 300 mm (11.81 in)
Baireuth, Bavaria [Fuß] 298 mm (11.73 in)
Bamberg, Bavaria [Fuß] 303 mm (11.93 in)
Basel, Canton of Stadtschuh 304 mm (11.97 in)
Bavaria [Fuß] 292 mm (11.50 in)
Bergamo, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 435 mm (17.13 in)
Berlin Prussian Reichsfuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Bern, Canton of gewöhnlicher Fuß 12 Zoll 298 mm (11.73 in)
Bern, Canton of Steinbrecherfuß 13 Zoll 317 mm (12.48 in)
Bohemia [Fuß] 296 mm (11.65 in)
Bozen, Austria Tyroler-Fuß 334 mm (13.15 in)
Braunschweig (Brunswick) Fuß 116 Ruthe 285 mm (11.22 in)
Bremen Fuß 116 Ruthe 289 mm (11.38 in)
Breslau old Silesian Fuß 116 Ruthe 283 mm (11.14 in)
Bünden, Canton of churischer Fuß 322 mm (12.68 in)
Calenberg Land Fuß 116 Ruthe 292 mm (11.50 in)
Carlsruhe (as Baden) [Fuß] 300 mm (11.81 in)
Cassel, Hessen [Fuß] 114 Ruthe 287 mm (11.30 in)
Cleve, Prussia [Fuß] 295 mm (11.61 in)
Cöln am Rhein (Cologne), Prussia [Fuß] 287 mm (11.30 in)
Cracau Fuß or Stopa 356 mm (14.02 in)
Cremona, Austria old Fuß 480 mm (18.90 in)
Danzig, Prussia old Fuß 12 Elle 287 mm (11.30 in)
Darmstadt Hessian Reichsfuß 10 Zoll 250 mm (9.84 in)
Darmstadt old Darmstadt Fuß 12 Zoll 288 mm (11.34 in)
Dordrecht, Netherlands [Fuß] 361 mm (14.21 in)
Dresden, Saxony [Fuß] 260 mm (10.24 in)
Duderstadt, Hanover [Fuß] 290 mm (11.42 in)
Durlach (as Baden) [Fuß] 300 mm (11.81 in)
Durlach old Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Emden, Hanover [Fuß] 296 mm (11.65 in)
Erfurt, Prussia old Fuß 114 Feldruthe, 116 Bauruthe 283 mm (11.14 in)
Frankfurt am Main [Fuß] 285 mm (11.22 in)
Freiburg, Canton of Werkfuß 12 Zoll, 110 Werkklafter 293 mm (11.54 in)
Friedberg in der Wetterau, Oberhessen [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Friedrichsstadt, Denmark [Fuß] 296 mm (11.65 in)
Fulda, Kurhessen Werkfuß 12 Elle 250 mm (9.84 in)
Genf (Geneva), Canton of Fuß 18 Ruthe 325 mm (12.80 in)
Gießen, Oberhessen [Fuß] 298 mm (11.73 in)
Glarus, Canton of [Fuß] 300 mm (11.81 in)
Glatz, Prussia Werkfuß 287 mm (11.30 in)
Göttingen, Hanover [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Gotha, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha [Fuß] 287 mm (11.30 in)
Halle an der Saale, Prussia Werkfuß 288 mm (11.34 in)
Halle an der Saale, Prussia Feldfuß 433 mm (17.05 in)
Hamburg Fuß 16 Klafter, 116 Geestruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Hanau, Hessen Fuß 225 Ruthe 285 mm (11.22 in)
Hanover, capital of the Kingdom Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 292 mm (11.50 in)
Heidelberg, Baden [Fuß] 278 mm (10.94 in)
Heilbronn, Würtemberg [Fuß] 278 mm (10.94 in)
Heiligenstadt, Prussia old Fuß 283 mm (11.14 in)
Herford, Prussia old Fuß 295 mm (11.61 in)
Hildesheim, Hanover Fuß 116 Ruthe 280 mm (11.02 in)
Holstein [Fuß] 296 mm (11.65 in)
Innsbruck, Austria Tyroler-Fuß 317 mm (12.48 in)
Königsberg, Prussia old Fuß 115 Ruthe 307 mm (12.09 in)
Lausanne, Canton of Waadt [Fuß] 293 mm (11.54 in)
Leipzig, Saxony gewöhnlicher Fuß 12 Elle, 16 Klafter 116 Ruthe 282 mm (11.10 in)
Lemberg, Austria Galizian Fuß 297 mm (11.69 in)
Lemgo, Lippe [Fuß] 287 mm (11.30 in)
Lindau, Bavaria Fuß 307 mm (12.09 in)
Lindau, Bavaria Feldmeßschuh, Bauschuh 289 mm (11.38 in)
Linz, Austria Fuß Klafter 303 mm (11.93 in)
Lübeck [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Lucern, Canton of Fuß (for wood measure) 314 mm (12.36 in)
Lucern, Canton of Zimmerwerkschuh 304 mm (11.97 in)
Lucern, Canton of Bau- and Feldmeßschuh 284 mm (11.18 in)
Milan, Austria old Fuß 398 mm (15.67 in)
Mainz, Hessen Werkfuß 314 mm (12.36 in)
Mainz, Hessen Kameralfuß, for firewood 287 mm (11.30 in)
Mannheim, Baden [Fuß] 290 mm (11.42 in)
Mecklenburg Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 291 mm (11.46 in)
Metz, France old Fuß 406 mm (15.98 in)
Mühlhausen, Prussia Fuß 116 Ruthe 281 mm (11.06 in)
Neufchatel, Principality of Werkfuß 293 mm (11.54 in)
Neufchatel, Principality of Feldmeßfuß 318 mm (12.52 in)
Nordhausen, Prussia old Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Nürnberg, Bavaria Stadtfuß 116 Ruthe 304 mm (11.97 in)
Nürnberg, Bavaria Artillery Fuß 292 mm (11.50 in)
Oldenburg Fuß 120 Ruthe 296 mm (11.65 in)
Osnabruck, Hanover [Fuß] 279 mm (10.98 in)
Padua, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 428 mm (16.85 in)
Prague, Austria Bohemian Fuß 296 mm (11.65 in)
Prussia, Rheinland Reichsfuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Ratzeburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Regensburg, Bavaria [Fuß] 313 mm (12.32 in)
Rheinbaiern Fuß 12 Zoll, 13 metre 333 mm (13.11 in)
Rheinland Rheinländischer Fuß 313 mm (12.32 in)
Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Fuß 12 Elle, 116 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Sanct Gallen, Canton of [Fuß] 313 mm (12.32 in)
Schaffhausen, Canton of [Fuß] 298 mm (11.73 in)
Silesia (Austrian part) [Fuß] 289 mm (11.38 in)
Solothurn, Canton of [Fuß] 293 mm (11.54 in)
Stade, Hanover [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Stettin, Prussia old Pomeranian Fuß 285 mm (11.22 in)
Stralsund, Prussia old Fuß 291 mm (11.46 in)
Strassburg, France [Fuß] 289 mm (11.38 in)
Stuttgart Reichsfuß 12 Elle, 110 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Tessin, Canton of [Fuß] 397 mm (15.63 in)
Thorn, Prussia old Fuß 297 mm (11.69 in)
Trento, Austria [Fuß] 366 mm (14.41 in)
Trier, Prussia Land- and Werkfuß 294 mm (11.57 in)
Trier, Prussia Waldfuß 310 mm (12.20 in)
Trier, Prussia Zimmermannsfuß 305 mm (12.01 in)
Tyrol, Austria [Fuß] 334 mm (13.15 in)
Udine, Austria [Fuß] 329 mm (12.95 in)
Ulm, Würtemberg [Fuß] 289 mm (11.38 in)
Venice, Austria Fuß 15 Passo 348 mm (13.70 in)
Verden, Hanover [Fuß] 291 mm (11.46 in)
Verona, Austria Fuß 16 Cavezzo 347 mm (13.66 in)
Vienna, Austria Fuß 16 Klafter 316 mm (12.44 in)
Waadt, Canton of Fuß 10 Zoll, 110 Ruthe 300 mm (11.81 in)
Wallis, Canton of [Fuß] 325 mm (12.80 in)
Weimar [Fuß] 282 mm (11.10 in)
Wesel, Prussia old Fuß 236 mm (9.29 in)
Wetzlar, Prussia old Fuß 274 mm (10.79 in)
Wiesbaden, Nassau [Fuß] 288 mm (11.34 in)
Wismar, Mecklenburg-Schwerin [Fuß] 292 mm (11.50 in)
Wittenberg, Prussia old Fuß 283 mm (11.14 in)
Worbis, Prussia old Fuß 286 mm (11.26 in)
Würtemberg Reichsfuß 12 Elle, 110 Ruthe 286 mm (11.26 in)
Würzburg, Bavaria [Fuß] 12 Elle 294 mm (11.57 in)
Zug, Canton of Fuß 301 mm (11.85 in)
Zug, Canton of Steinfuß 268 mm (10.55 in)
Zürich, Canton of Fuß 16 Klafter, 110 Ruthe 301 mm (11.85 in)
Except where noted, based on Niemann (1830).[2] The values of the other local units mentioned also varied widely.

Zoll (inch)[edit]

Usually 112 foot, but also 111 and 110.

Linie[edit]

Usually 112 inch, but also 110.

Volume[edit]

Klafter[edit]

For firewood, 2.905 m3 (102.6 cu ft)

Nösel[edit]

In general, the Nösel was a measure of liquid volume equal to half a Kanne ("jar," "jug," "bottle," "can"). Actual volumes so measured, however, varied from one state or even one city to another. Within Saxony, for example, the "Dresden jar" held approximately 1 US quart or 0.95 litres or 0.83 imperial quarts, so a nösel in Dresden was about 1 US pint (0.47 L; 0.83 imp pt). The full volume of a "Leipzig jar" measured 1.2 liters (1.3 U.S. qt; 1.1 imp qt); the Leipzig nösel was therefore 0.6 liters (0.63 U.S. qt; 0.53 imp qt).

The nösel was used in minor commerce, as well as in the household to measure meal, grain, and such. These units of measure were officially valid in Saxony until 1868, when the metric system was introduced. Nevertheless, the old measures have continued in private use for decades.

One interesting modification was introduced in Thuringia. There, the nösel was, by extension, also a measure of area; namely, the area of land which could be sown with one nösel of seed — or about 19.36 square yards (16.19 m2; 0.00400 acre)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barnard, Frederick Augustus Porter (1879). The Metric system of weights and measures. American Metric Bureau. pp. 220–2. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Niemann, Friedrich (1830) Vollständiges Handbuch der Münzen, Masse, und Gewichte aller Länder der Erde fur Kaufleute, Banquiers ... : in alphabetischer Ordnung. Quedlinburg und Leipzig, G. Basse. p. 286

Bibliography[edit]

  • François Cardarelli: Encyclopedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins. Springer, Berlin 2003. ISBN 1-85233-682-X
  • Helmut Kahnt, Bernd Knorr: Alte Masse, Münzen und Gewichte. . Bibliographisches Institut Mannheim/Wien/Zürich 1987. (Lizenzausgabe von VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig 1986) (German)
  • Wolfgang Trapp: Kleines Handbuch der Maße, Zahlen Gewichte und der Zeitrechnung. Von . Reclam Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 1996. ISBN 3-15-008737-6 (German)
  • Günther Scholz, Klaus Vogelsang: Kleines Lexikon: Einheiten, Formelzeichen. Fachbuchverlag, Leipzig 1991 ISBN 3-343-00500-2 (German)
  • Johann Christian Nelkenbrechers Taschenbuch eines Banquiers und Kaufmanns: enthaltend eine Erklärung aller ein- und ausländischen Münzen, des Wechsel-Courses, Usos, Respect-Tage und anderer zur Handlung gehörigen Dinge; mit einer genauen Vergleichung des Ellen-Maaßes, Handels-, Gold- und Silber-Gewichts, auch Maaße von Getreide und flüssigen Sachen derer fürnehmsten europäischen Handels-Plätze. Nachdruck der Ausgabe 1769: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Düsseldorf 2004. ISBN 3-936755-58-2 (German)

External links[edit]