Friday, May 3, 2013

Tattle Tape for Women

Stanley Home Products, Inc., wished to be so helpful to the ladies in 1938 that they offered them a measuring tape which they called "A Tattle-Tape for Women," called such because "It-Tells-On-You."  It was copyrighted by Roger Martenson, Minneapolis, Minn., 1938.

This cloth tape measures 60" and is about 5/8" wide.  Along the front of the tape are the advertisements, "Stanley Home Products, Inc." and "Household and Personal Brushes - Floor Wax and Household Polishes."

All 60 inches of the back of the tape are covered with printed information about body weights and measurements and boxes and grids to write one's measurements.

The lady of 1938 learned that "If your weight is within 10% of our charts and your proportions check with our tables ... you have a lovely figure."  Information about the height/weight chart explains, "Approximate and normal weights for small, medium and large framed individuals."  Here is the chart they provided.

These are the instructions on the tape (above) printed with boxes for writing the measurements following each:
"Write chest measurement in the following square....."
"Write bust measurement in the following square......"  "Your bust should measure 1 to 2 1/2 inches larger than chest"
"Write waist measurement in following square......"
"Your waist should be from 6 to 9 inches less than bust. 6 inches is fair, 7 inches good, and 8 inches is excellent."
"Write hip measurement in following square......"  "Your hips should be 1 to 3 inches more than bust"
"Write your weight in following square......"  "Your weight should be within 10% of normal."
"For beauty, health and appearance check your weight and measurements each month...."

About 24 inches of the tape gives space for the lady to track her weight, chest, bust, waist, and hip measurements for 12 months.

I'm trying to imagine what a lady of the house in 1938 thought about this gift.  Was she pleased to receive a free measuring tape?  Afterall, the Great Depression was still in progress and money was tight.  Did any of the women who received one feel unhappy that Stanley Home Products, Inc. was offering them a product to help them monitor their weight and measurements?  Did any of the ladies who received the tapes use them?  Did it encourage them to buy (or buy more) Stanley products?  Were women in 1938 generally more concerned about their weight than women of today?

In 1938 my mother turned 23 and she married my father in September.  From some of the memories she shared about that time in her life, there wasn't an abundance of food.  I know that throughout her life she was aware of her weight and was careful not to overeat.  I suppose she would have appreciated such a gift.

I found this measuring tape at a local recycle center.  It was neatly coiled into a flattened circle.  It is frayed and obviously has been used for measuring, but no measurements were recorded in the boxes on the back. As a sewer and homemaker, I'm pleased to have another tape measure:  it means I won't have to go retrieve the one by the sewing machine when I want to measure something in the bedroom.  But I certainly will not use it to record my weight and measurements.



  1. What a neat vintage tape measure! I love stuff like that.

  2. A very interesting read. I learned something new.

  3. I just last week came across this identical tape measure in my deceased mother-in-law's sewing basket. Hers, also, does not have any measurements recorded on it. Perhaps, because as the tape states in it's name,'Tattle Tape For Women' - "IT-TELLS-ON-YOU".

    She was born in Louisiana in 1922, and resided there her entire life. She was an avid seamstress, by need and by choice. She would have been 16 years old at the time that this tape was copyrighted by Roger Martenson in 1938, although I do not know how or when she obtained the tape. But it was apparently put to good use. Even though it was a give-away, or advertisement for Stanley Products, it was an era of "waste not, want not".

    I am holding onto it for sentimental and nostalgic reasons. *put a heart and smiley face here!

    1. How fun to learn that another Tattle Tape for Women survives -- and that it, too, is blank though well-used. "Waste not, want not" was a phrase I heard often while growing up. Thanks for sharing your find and the information about your grandmother. It's fun to read others' memories and experiences.


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