New Britain Machine Co.

New Britain Machine Company, from Wikipedia: According to one source, New Britain Machine was founded in New Britain, Connecticut in 1887.  However, according to Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, it was founded in 1895 subsequent to the J.T. Case Engine Company, a manufacturer of steam engines. The first product the new company produced was a chainsaw mortising machine. In 1925, it registered the None Better trademark to sell its line of sockets and tools. Much of New Britain Machine's early tool production was done under the None Better line. Many of the early tools were carbon steel, offering a lower cost alternative to the higher price alloy steels of the day. Early tool sets consisted of hex drive sockets and an eel bar for the drive tool. Beginning in the 1930s, the None Better line consisted of a wide variety of 1/2 square drive tools with a Cadmium finish. At this time, New Britain Machine was also supplying tools for Sears in their Craftsman line of tools. These tools are easy to distinguish as they either have a BE or an H in a circle stamped into the tools. The New Britain Machine line was also created at this time as a higher priced alloy steel alternative.  Acquisitions and Development The early 1930s were a busy time for New Britain Machine Company. At the beginning of the decade, New Britain purchased the Husky Wrench Company, which was started by Sigmund Mandl in 1924. Sigmund Mandl went on to Blackhawk Manufacturing Company in 1931 after the Husky Wrench Company was bought by Olsen Manufacturing. During this time, New Britain Machine had a contract with Sears to supply sockets and drive tools for their Craftsman tool line. This contract survived until 1947 when the socket was gradually phased out and replaced by the "V" series sockets. In 1925 the National Automotive Parts Association was formed and New Britain Machine became the main supplier for them until the late 1970s. In 1955 New Britain bought the handtool line of Blackhawk Manufacturing Company however Blackhawk retained their line of hydraulic jacks and other hydraulic products the company changed its name to Applied Power Industries. Blackhawk tools became a very important brand for the New Britain Machine Company for many years. Many of the designs that Blackhawk made were adopted by New Britain in their tools. New Britain Machine Company also supplied many companies, this list includes Mac Tools, Matco Tools, Giller, J. C. Penney (Penncraft), Owatonna Tools Company, American Forge, and PowerKraft. In 1957, Luther Kilness filed patent numbers 2,554,990 and 2,981,389 with the United States Patent Office. This design can be said to be the next evolution of the ratchet design of SK Hand Tools' Theodore Rueb.  This ratchet was a very successful design, lasting from its introduction in 1961 to the eventual closure of New Britain in the 1980s. The ratchet was a compression engagement, using 12 teeth with a 60 tooth ratchet count. Later ratchets, from 1971 and onward, used a 9 tooth pawl making the ratchet a 45 tooth count. In 1972, New Britain Machine Company was acquired by Litton Industrial Products. Litton continued to be the owner of New Britain Machine Company until the latter's closure in 1990.  Its assets (including the Blackhawk and Husky trademarks) were acquired by The Stanley Works which continues to use the Blackhawk name for one of its product lines. On July 8, 2004, New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart announced that twenty-six acres of New Britain Machine's former property on South Street was being sold to two local businesses, Dattco and Guida's, after reaching an agreement.

 

ToolArchives Research:

An obituary in the 1/12 1897 edition of The Trenton Evening Times for Mr. Henry Peck Strong notes that Mr. Strong was a large investor in the New Britain Machine Co.

An excerpt from the book Connecticut: A Guide to Its Roads, Lore and People, Page 217, seems to suggest that New Britain Machine Co. was founded between 1839 and 1850.

Contributing to the speculation of earlier beginnings of New Britain Machine is an Auto Show advertisement from the 09/2/1919 Asbury Park Press (and many other papers) noting that the None Better Products of New Britain Machine are "backed by 42 years of success."  This would indicate formation around 1877.  Interestingly, the series of advertisements for the 1920 Auto Show note 30 years of history.

An early edition of Moody's Industrials reports the following information:

NBM Co. was incorporated in June of 1895 in CT, through the merger of Case Engine Company.  As reported in the Hartford Courant of 6/28/1895, the officers are: P. Corbin - Pres., M. C. Swift - VP, F. G. Platt - Treas., and Robert S. Brown - Sec.  All officers mentioned are board members, with the addition of C. J. Barker.  Mssrs. Corbin, Swift and Platt come from Case, which was started in 1887.  Mr. Swift was also President of the Malleable Iron Works in Hartford.

In 1911, NBM Co. purchased the business and assets of the Geo. D Prentice & Co. of New Haven.  In 1913, they purchased the patents and assets of the Universal Machine Screw Co. of Hartford. 

The officers and board of NBM Co. were:

  • H. H. Pease - President & Treasurer
  • R. S. Brown - Sec
  • Board:
    • L. P. Broadhurst
    • E. M. Day
    • J. H. Goss
    • E. A. Moore
    • J. E. Ottorson
    • H. H. Pease
    • P. K. Rogers
    • W. S. Rowland
    • A. W. Stanley
    • P. B. Stanley

This biography of Philip Corbin notes that he was at one time President of NBM Co.  We do indeed find that in 1887 at it's founding, Mr. Corbin was President of the J. T. Case Engine Co.  In the mid-late 1890s, this business was either taken over or reorganized as NBM Co.

December, 1921 - H. H. Pease is President.  Mr. Charles F. Smith is Chairman of the Board.

The None Better Trademark, filed in July of 1924, notes a first use of the term for what appears to be most of their line, including sockets and wrenches, of 1917.

In 1929, NB merged with Gridley Machine Co. of Hartford, CT.

In approximately 1934-1936, NBM Co. purchased Husky Wrench.  Please see our ongoing research on the Milwaukee Tool Industry for research notes.

The 1/17/1941 edition of The Daily Times (Philadelphia, PA) reports the award of a military contract for "engine parts" for airplanes in the amount of $409,000.

The Des Moines Register reports on 11/18/1941 a military contract awarded to NBM Co. for $538,515 from the Defense Plant Corp. to produce machinery and Navy aircraft parts.

In March of 1942, Herbert A. Pease is President of NBM Co.

On a lighter note, the 2/17/1943 edition of The Decatur Daily Review announced that NBM Co. would award a plaque inscribed with swastikas monthly to the division with the highest absentee rate.

In October of 1955, NBM Co. purchased the hand tool business of Blackhawk.

New Britain Machine Company (New Britain, CT) Sub Brands / Trade Names / Trademarks

   Contract Production for

  • Sears - Craftsman Circle H (Sockets, Drive Tools, Ratchets)
  • Sears - Craftsman BE (Sockets, Drive Tools, Ratchets)
  • NAPA
  • MAC (Ratchets, Automatic Transmission Tools)
  • MATCO (Ratchets)
  • Penncraft (JC Penny)
  • Owatonna Tool Co. (OTC)
  • American Forge
  • Powerkraft

    NB Ratchet Production Brands List (As of 7/13/2016) (K) = Kilness Patent; (F) = Fors Patent; (C) = Costello Patent **Courtesy of work & collection by Powderkeg**

  • American Forge (K)
  • Billings (F)
  • Blackhawk (F, K)
  • Bluegrass (F, K)
  • Champion Plugmaster (K)
  • Craftsman (C, F)
  • Crescent (K)
  • Fairmount (F)
  • Filson (F)
  • Giller (K)
  • Husky (C, F, K)
  • K. R. Wilson (F)
  • JS (K)
  • Litton (K)
  • Mac (K)
  • Master Mechanic (K)
  • Matco (K)
  • Mustang (F, K)
  • NBM (K)
  • New Britain (C, F, K)
  • None Better (C, F)
  • OTC (K)
  • Penncraft (K)
  • Precision-Bilt (F)
  • Proto Challenger (K)
  • SP 45 (K)
  • Sparta (K)
  • Thorsen (K)
  • "unbranded" (K)
  • Vlchek (C)
  • Wardmaster (F)
  • Wix (F)
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Comments

In the late 1960s New Britain changed from 8620 alloy steel to 1137 alloy steel as a cost reduction.

In the picture below the upper Blackhawk OE wrench has grooves in the shank either side of the stamping. This is the older 8620 wrench.

The lower wrench without the grooves is newer 1137 wrench. This designation worked for the New Britain / Blackhawk line. I am not aware of a similar designation for the Husky / Sparta / Penncraft line or if anything was done for the sockets but the alloy change was across the board.

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A member recently sent me a Filson wrench, would you have by chance any literature coming from NB talking about making the Filson brand ?