An eBay listing and subsequent purchase for the Historical Museum’s collection led to an interesting bit of San Anselmo’s history. The rare item is a small level, marked “Leonhart’s Level,” with the patent date of February 27, 1906.
The United States Patent Office records identify the patent holder as Rudolph Leonhart of San Anselmo. The device was designed so that “The workman need not transport a cumbersome and relatively heavy straight-edge from place to place in pursuing his vocation as by possessing one of the comparatively small and light plates with its bulb-tube attached he can quickly complete the device by constructing the straight-edge portion from otherwise waste material where it is required to use the implements.”
Rudolph Leonhart, a native of Pennsylvania, came to San Anselmo in 1903 and had a long career as a contractor. In partnership with his father-in-law, Silas Moore, he built St. John’s Church in Ross in 1910. In 1926, he constructed the San Anselmo Women’s Improvement Clubhouse at 167 Tunstead Avenue (Knights of Columbus Hall) and an addition to it in 1930. Numerous homes in San Anselmo, Ross and Kentfield were built by Leonhart.
Leonhart had two other patented inventions: a windmill in 1898 that could be easily and quickly turned into and out of operating position and with fewer parts; and in 1916, an ore-concentrator to extract platinum or gold from mining tailings.
Rudolph Leonhart died in 1941 at age 80 at his home at 56 Tamalpais Avenue. He was survived by his wife Emma, and daughters Irma Leonhart Litz and Mary Ardath Blank. Irma’s 1976 oral history interview, in which she tells of life in San Anselmo in the early 20th century, is available at the Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Civic Center Library.
One wonders how many Leonhart’s Levels were manufactured and sold. At least one ended up in Washington State where the eBay seller was located. It has survived 111 years, and we are pleased to have it in our collection.