The rod or perch or pole is a surveyors tool and unit of length equal to 5½ yards, 16½ feet or 1/320th of a statute mile and one-fourth of a surveyors chain. The rod is useful as a unit of length because whole number multiples of it can equal one acre of square measure. The 'perfect acre' is a rectangular area of 43,560 square feet, bounded by sides 660 feet by 66 feet long, or 220 yards by 22 yards long, or 40 rods by 4 rods long. Thus, an acre is 160 square rods. Since the adoption of the international yard on 1 July 1959, the rod has been equal to exactly 5.0292 meters.
A rod is the same length as a perch also sometimes called a pole which measure using cordage or wood, slightly antedated the use of both rods and surveyors chains, made of more dimensionally regular materials. The measure also has a relationship to the military pike of about the same size and both measures date from the sixteenth century when that weapon was still utilized in national armies. The tool, normally configured as a metal rod with eye-ends (loops that could be hooked together) was used commonly until quite recently, when it was supplanted by electronic tools such as surveyor lasers (Lidar) and optical target devices for surveying lands. Surveyors rods and chains are still utilized in rough terrains with heavy overgrowth where laser or other optical measurements are difficult or impossible. In old English, the term lug is also used.
Until English King Henry VIII seized the lands of the Roman Catholic Church in 1536, land measures as we now know them were essentially unknown. Instead a narrative system of landmarks and lists was used. Henry wanted to raise even more funds for his wars than he'd seized directly from church property (he'd also assumed the debts of Monasteries), and as James Burke writes and quotes in the book Connections: the English Monk Richard Benese "produced a book on how to survey land using the simple tools of the time, a rod with cord carrying knots at certain intervals, waxed and resined against wet weather. It was Benese who fixed the measure of an Acre:
|“||'an acre bothe of woodlande, also of fyldlande [heath] is always forty perches in length, and four perches in breadth, though an acre of woodlande be more in quantitie [value, was more valued commercially] than an acre of fyldelande'||”|
The practice of using surveyors chains, and perch length rods made into a detachable stiff chain came about a century later when iron was a more plentiful and common material. A chain is a larger unit of length measuring 66 feet (20.1168 meters), or 22 yards, or 100 links, or 4 rods (20.1168 meters). There are 10 chains or 40 rods in a furlong (eighth-mile), and so 80 chains or 320 rods in one statute mile (1760 yards, 1609.344 m, 1.609344 km); the definition of which was set only after London was nearly burned down (1666), by Royal surveyor (called the 'sworn viewer') John Ogilby.
An acre is defined as the area of 10 square chains (that is, an area of one chain by one furlong), and derives from the shapes of new-tech plows and the desire to quickly survey seized church lands into a quantity of squares for quick sales by Henry VIII's agents; buyers simply wanted to know what they were buying whereas Henry was raising cash for wars against Scotland and France. Consequently the surveyor's chain and surveyor rods or poles (the perch) have been used for several centuries in Britain and in many other countries influenced by British practices such as North America and Australia. By the time of the industrial revolution and the quickening of land sales, canal and railway surveys, et al. Surveyor Rods such as used by George Washington were generally made of dimensionally stable metal—semi-flexible pinky-finger-tip-thin drawn wrought iron linkable bar stock (not steel), such that the four folded elements of a chain were easily transportable through brush and branches when carried by a single man of a surveyor's crew. With a direct ratio to the length of a surveyor's chain and the sides of both an acre and a square (mile), they were common tools used by surveyors, if only to lay out a known plottable baseline in rough terrain thereafter serving as the reference line for instrumental (theodolite) triangulations.
In ancient cultures
The Ancient Roman units of measurement of length included a rod or pertica (also decempeda) of 10 pedes, which was equivalent to about 2.96 m; the related unit of square measure was the scrupulum or decempeda quadrata, equivalent to about 8.76 m².
In continental Europe
Units comparable to the perch, pole or rod were used in many European countries, with names that include French: perche and canne, German: Ruthe, Italian: canna and pertica, Polish: pręt and Spanish: canna. They were subdivided in many different ways, and were of many different lengths.
|Place||Local name||Local equivalent||Metric equivalent (meters)|
|Aubenas, Ardèche||canne||8 pans||1.985N|
|Baden, Grand Duchy of||Ruthe||10 Fuß||3.0N|
|Basel, Canton of||Ruthe||16 Fuß||4.864N|
|Bern, Canton of||Ruthe||10 Fuß||2.932N|
|Bremen||Ruthe||8 Ellen or 16 Fuß||4.626N|
|Cagliari, Sardinia||canna||10 palmi||2.322N|
|Calenberg Land||Ruthe||16 Fuß||4.677N|
|Cassel, Hessen||Ruthe||14 Fuß||4.026N|
|Geneva, Canton of||Ruthe||8 Fuß||2.598N|
|France||Perche (for woodland)||3 2⁄3 toises||7.145N|
|Jever, Oldenburg||Ruthe||20 Fuß||4.377N|
|Menorca, but not Mahón||canna||1.599N|
|Menorca, city of Mahon||canna||8 palmos||1.714N|
|Messina, Sicily||canna||8 palmi||2.113N|
|Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne||canne||8 pans||1.783N|
|Naples||canna (for cloth)||8 palmi|
|Naples, Kingdom of: Puglia, Calabria, Eboli, Foggia, Lucera||percha||7 palmi||1.838N|
|Naples, Kingdom of: Capua||percha||7 1⁄5 palmi||1.892N|
|Naples, Kingdom of: Fiano, Naples||percha||7 1⁄2 palmi||2.014N|
|Naples, Kingdom of: Caggiano, Cava, Nocera, Rocce, Salerno||percha||7 2⁄3 palmi||1.971N|
|Nürnberg, Bavaria||Ruthe||16 Fuß||4.861N|
|Palermo, Sicily||canna||8 palmi||1.942N|
|Poland||Pręt||7 1⁄2 łokci or 10 pręcików||4.320N|
|Prussia, Rheinland||Ruthe||12 Fuß||3.766N|
|Rome||canna (for cloth)||2N|
|Rome||canna (for building)||2.234N|
|Saxony||Ruthe||16 Leipziger Fuß||4.512N|
|Tuscany, Grand-Duchy of (Florence, Pisa)||canna||5 bracci||2.918N|
|Uzès, Gard||canne||8 pans||1.98N|
|Waadt, Canton of||Ruthe or toise courante||10 Fuß||3N|
|Würtemberg||old Ruthe||16 Fuß||4.583N|
|Zürich, Canton of||Ruthe||10 Fuß||3.009N|
Based on data from the following:
The length of the chain was standardized in 1620 by Edmund Gunter at exactly 4 rods. Fields were measured in acres, which were one chain (four rods) by one furlong (in the United Kingdom, ten chains).
Bars of metal one rod long were used as standards of length when surveying land. The rod was still in use as a common unit of measurement in the mid-19th century, when Henry David Thoreau used it frequently when describing distances in his work, Walden.
The rod was phased out as a legal unit of measurement in the United Kingdom as part of a ten-year metrication process that began on 24 May 1965.
In the USA, the rod, along with the chain, furlong, and statute mile (as well as the survey inch and survey foot) are based on the pre-1959 values for United States customary units of linear measurement. The Mendenhall Order of 1893 defined the yard as exactly 3600/3937 meters, with all other units of linear measurement, including the rod, based on the yard. In the post-1959 system, the fundamental unit of length is the inch, defined as exactly 2.54 centimeters. The above-noted units, used in surveying, retain their pre-1959 values.
Despite no longer being in widespread use, the rod is still employed in certain specialized fields. In recreational canoeing, maps measure portages (overland paths where canoes must be carried) in rods; typical canoes are approximately one rod long. The term is also in widespread use in the acquisition of pipeline easements, as the offers for an easement are often expressed on a "price per rod".
In Vermont, the default right-of-way width of state and town highways and trails is three rods (15.0876 m). Rods can also be found on the older legal descriptions of tracts of land in the United States, following the "metes and bounds" method of land survey; as shown in this actual legal description of rural real estate:
LEGAL DESCRIPTION: Commencing 45 rods East and 44 rods North of Southwest corner of Southwest 1/4 of Southwest 1/4; thence North 36 rods; thence East 35 rods; thence South 36 rods; thence West 35 rods to the place of beginning, Manistique Township, Schoolcraft County, Michigan.
Area and volume
- Chain (unit)
- Imperial units
- English units
- United States customary units
- anthropic units
- James, Burke (1978). "Chapter 9. Lighting the Way". Connections, (pbk: ISBN 0-316-11685-8) and UK ed. "Connections: Alternative History of Technology" (Time Warner International/Macmillan 1978) ISBN 978-0-333-24827-0 (ninth, pbk ed.). Little,Brown and Company (North America)/Macmillan,London. p. 304. ISBN 0-316-11681-5.
- Connections, pbk. pp63
- Connections, pbk. p.263
- Bonten, JHM (2007-01-19). "Anglo-Saxon and Biblical to Metrics Conversions". Surveyor + Chain + British-Nautical. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- Rowlett, Russ (2008-12-15). "lug ". How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- The Cassell English Dictionary, London 1990, p. 214, ISBN 0-304-34003-0
- "Connections", pbk. pp265
- Smith, Sir William; Charles Anthon (1851) A new classical dictionary of Greek and Roman biography, mythology, and geography partly based upon the Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology New York: Harper & Bros. Tables, pp. 1024–30.
- 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. 33, pp.231–2, p. 286
- Thomas Ulvan Taylor (1908). "1". Surveyor's hand book. McGraw-Hill. p. 1. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- Russell, Jeffrey S.; American Society of Civil Engineers (1 August 2003). Perspectives in civil engineering: commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Society of Civil Engineers. ASCE Publications. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-7844-0686-1. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- Rowlett, Russ (2008-12-03). "acre (ac or A)". How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- Thoreau, Henry David (1899). Walden: or, Life in the woods. H. Altemus. pp. 67, 113, 203, 204, 208, 290, 300, 309, 319, 339, 341, 356. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
- Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate (1968). Report (1968) by the Standing Joint Committee on Metrication (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry. http://www.metric.org.uk/Docs/DTI/met1968.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- Handbook 44 - 2012, Appendix C - General Tables of Units of Measurement
- "Canoe Glossary and Clickable Canoe". OutdoorPlaces.com. Michael Thiessen. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- Attorney Discussion on Price per Rod. Retrieved 24 Oct 2012.
- "Allotments". Watford Borough Council. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- Width of highways and trails. 19 V.S.A. § 702 (Vermont Statutes Online) (Added 1985, No. 269 [Adj. Sess.], § 1.).
- Shelton, Neil. "How to Read Land Descriptions". homestead.org. p. 5. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
- "Lake View Parcel $198 Down $198 Month Incredible 8 Acre Parcel!". EagleStar. American Eagle Star. Retrieved 2010-11-01.