It is common to hear the phrase “rule of thumb” when someone is discussing rules or regulations. Have you ever wondered about the origin of the phrase? I wish I could say it came from a children’s fable or that a famous person uttered it long ago, but unfortunately the phrase’s beginning is not as pleasant. The saying emerged around the Civil War when it was legal, and socially acceptable, for a husband to beat his wife. The only stipulation was the instrument used could not be thicker than the thumb. Thus the saying “rule of thumb” found it’s way into our everyday language.
“Rule of Thumb”
- William T. Sherman leaning on breach of gun, 1864 — Gen. William T. Sherman, leaning on breach of gun, and staff at Federal Fort No. 7 in Atlanta Georgia. George N. Barnard, photographer, 1864. This photograph of Sherman was taken after three and a half months of incessant maneuvering and much hard fighting. Sherman forced Hood to abandon the munitions center of the Confederacy in [...]
- Ice skating on the Manitowoc River, 1891 — Ice skating on the Manitowoc River in Wisconsin in 1891. Share the History Love... [...]
- Annie Oakley shooting, 1892 — A Native American man stands in the left foreground watching Phoebe Anne “Annie Oakley” Moses shoot at targets in the air during a performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Earl’s Court in England in 1892. The man has a blanket wrapped around his body. Annie shoots with her left arm fully extended. She [...]
- Driving through a cut-out section of a tree, 1865 — Man in hat seated in a wagon with his back to the camera posed inside the cut-out section of the tree, ca. 1865. The section of the tree was 28 feet in diameter and 275 feet high and was located near Wawona, California in the Mariposa Grove. Share the History Love... [...]
- Ulysses Grant and family at Long Branch, 1870 — Ulysses Grant and wife, Julia Dent, and their four children; Jesse, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, and Frederick in front of their cottage in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1870. Also present are two black men, whose identities are unknown. Share the History Love... [...]