This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Measures. A system by which extent is ascertained or expressed; stated quantities. Our measures of lengths originated in the dawn of civilization and came down to us through the Anglo-Saxons. The yard was originally the length of a king's arm; the foot the length of his pedal extremities. The word inch is derived from the Latin uncia, a twelfth part, but why the foot was divided into twelfths instead of tenths or elevenths, no one claims to be wise enough to tell. It has been suggested that probably the inch was originally the length of the second joint of the forefinger, and that twelve of these about equal the length of the forearm, which averages about one foot. Aune, which is a cloth measure of one yard and a quarter, is derived from the Latin alna, forearm. The inch used to be divided into three "barleycorns," which were simply the length of three grains of barley. The mile was reckoned at 1,000 paces, as its name shows, being derived from the Latin phrase millia passuum, a thousand paces. The system of units ordinarily used in measuring length is termed Linear measure. The table is:
= 5 1/2
= 16 1/2
= 2 1/4
Other units considered as belonging to Linear measure are the pace, 6 feet; the fathom, 6 feet; the span, 9 inches; the hand, 4 inches (used in measuring the height of horses); the ell, 1 1/4 yards; the aune, 1 1/4 yards; the meter, 1 1/12 yards.
Cloth measure is the standard system of linear units employed exclusively in measuring cloth. The table is:
All dress silks are put up in folds 1 1/4 yards long (1 aune). French cotton fabrics, such as sateens, lawns, organdies, etc., are usually put up in folds of one meter - one yard and a twelfth. The same fabrics made in the United States are folded in 1-yard lengths. Both French and American silks, however, are folded in aune lengths. [See Metric System, Ell]