Bonney Vise & Tool / Bonney Forge & Tool Works

This article, for the most part, re-writes the majority of early Bonney history. We will link all assertions to their relevant resources so that the reader might investigate for themselves.

In 1873, Charles S. Bonney patented a clamping device, Patent #135,882.  The interesting part of this patent is who signed the document as witnesses.  They are William W. Supplee and Frank W. Huff, Directors of Supplee Hardware Co.

In either late 1876 or early 1877, Charles S. Bonney formed a company under the name C. S. Bonney & Son. Many of the advertisements and paraphernalia discovered contains the "Established 1876" marking, however there has yet to be discovered any documentation of the actual date of formation for the company. This article from 1898 describes the formation of the company in 1877 at Seventeenth & Barker streets. The same article asserts that Bonney relocated the company to Frankford Street in 1878. Again in the same article, Bonney moved the company again to 639 Arch Street in 1880. Again using the same reference, the company was moved to their famous Philadelphia location of 3015 Chestnut Street in 1882. On July 2nd, 1881, Bonney Vise & Tool Co. (Limited) was formally registered as a business entity in the state of Pennsylvania under Business Entity # 5828301. On November 19th, 1881, the company was re-registered as "The" Bonney Vise & Tool Co. (Limited) under Business Entity # 4633103. We have discovered no further information covering the period between November, 1881 and July 1885.

During our research, we were lucky enough to locate and obtain an original copy of the 1886 edition of a Bonney catalog. Inside the front cover of that catalog (also inside the front cover of the 1888 catalog), we made a startling discovery; on July 28th, 1885, C. S. Bonney sold his interest in The Bonney Vise and Tool Co. (Limited) to John B. Newkirk. All Bonney products would be sold under the Philadelphia Hardware purveyor Newkirk, Ritchie & Bells. By the end of 1888, Mr. Bells left the partnership and was replaced by Mr. Armstead O. Bills, who was to become a major part of the Bonney legacy. Outside an article from The Allentown Leader (newspaper) gossip section on December 15, 1917, we can find no evidence of any Bonney family involvement in the company after it was sold in 1885. The Allentown Leader article, which identifies Henry G. Bonney as the "founder of the Bonney Vise and Tool Works." This reference provides credence to the formation of the company as C. S. Bonney & Son.  The article states: "GUESTS OF COL. FRANKLIN. Lieutenant Colonel C. P. Franklin, executive officer of the Ambulance Camp, had as a visitor Thursday his father-in-law, Henry G. Bonney of Philadelphia, the founder of the Bonney Vise and Tool Works. With him was his son, Lieut. Kenneth C. Bonney, who enlisted in the Coast Artillery and won a commission. He had been sent to France and England on special missions and is now going across again for active service." Exhaustive searches of records yields virtually nothing about Henry G. Bonney, and absolutely no association with the company outside of this "gossip section blurb."

Records show that sometime in 1890, A. O. Bills obtained sole rights to Bonney and reorganized the company, with many resources showing A. O. Bills as "Sole Proprietor." Presumably as part of the reorganization by Mr. Bills, The Bonney Vise & Tool Co. (Limited) became Bonney Vise & Tool Works. Even though the corporate entity of "Bonney Vise & Tool Works" wasn't formally registered with the USPTO until March 17th of 1908, there are enough advertisements with that company name during the early 1890's to surmise that the name change happened around 1890. The "takeover" by A. O. Bills appeared to be a great success as, by 1898, the company had grown to 60 payroll employees. As part of this growth, in 1894 Mr. Bills struck a deal with the J. H. Graham & Co. of NY, naming them the sole factory direct distributor for Bonney manufactured tools and implements. In 1896, Bonney introduced "The only all steel vise ever put on the market," further broadening the product line. There is also evidence that on April, 10th of 1900, the Bonney facility narrowly escaped disaster from a fire. The damages from the fire were estimated at $150. Based on CPI, in today's dollars the damages would equate to around $4500. On November 30th, 1902, Joseph G. Baker, a prolific inventor for Bonney, filed his patent for "The Masterpiece." This combination pipe wrench/pipe cutter was revolutionary for the time and jobbers and purveyors of Bonney products could not keep them in stock. By 1906, demand was so high for Bonney products that another factory (not yet identified) in New York was outsourced and producing Bonney products almost exclusively. This portion of Bonney history is somewhat sketchy, having found very little evidence to document the era between 1905 and 1909. During that timeframe, A. O. Bills disappears from all advertisements and records pertaining to Bonney. Emerging from this era is the Durham family.

In 1907, Mr. Joseph E. Durham becomes President of Bonney and on September 1, 1907, his son Joseph E. Durham becomes Vice President and Treasurer, and his other son Fred becomes Vice President. At this point, we are assuming that the Durham family bought out A. O. Bills in 1907 and took over Bonney operations. In 1909, Bonney factory operations were moved to Allentown, PA, although offices were still retained in Philadelphia. The company thrived in Allentown, significantly expanding it's product line into wrenches, specialty wrenches and other mechanics hand and specialty tools. By 1916, the company broke ground on a new facility to keep up with ever growing demand for their products. On March 2, 1921, in order to more appropriately match the name with their genre of products, Bonney again changed their name from The Bonney Vise & Tool Works, to Bonney Forge and Tool Works.

In 1933, as reported in Iron Age, Volume 131, Bonney organized the Gray-Bonney Tool Co. Ltd. of Canada.  According to other sources, Gray-Bonney was a partnership between the two companies with primary leadership coming from Gray.

***More to come as research progresses***


From Wikipedia: Bonney Forge was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876 by Charles S. Bonney. Originally Bonney Forge crafted forged and finished hardware for horse-drawn wagons, later it became a manufacturer of automotive hand tools, and now it is a manufacturer of fittings and unions, branch connections, steel valves and specialty products. In 1953 Bonney Forge was taken over by the Miller Manufacturing Company of Detroit, Michigan. In 1964 the firm was sold to Kelsey-Hayes Corp. of Romulus, Michigan. The company was for many years based out of Allentown, Pennsylvania, where it had some of its manufacturing operations. Bonney Forge also had manufacturing operations in Alliance, Ohio, Orangeburg, South Carolina and near Milan, Italy. Plant closures In March 1964 Bonney Forge closed its manufacturing plant in Alliance, after if moved manufacturing operations from there to the Kelsey-Hayes Corp. plant in Orangeburg, South Carolina. In August 2001 Bonney Forge closed its manufacturing plant in Allentown because the plant building could not be modernized to handle a new press. In 1967, the pipe fittings and valves portion of Bonney Forge was sold to the Gulf & Western Company where it continued to produces these goods until 1984. In 1984, a successful leverage buyout brought the Bonney Forge company back into privately held hands where it remains today. From the Bonney Forge Website: Bonney Forge, founded in 1876, initially forged and finished hardware for horse drawn wagons. The company's product line, all requiring metal working and machining, evolved during the first half of the 20th century. The products included hand tools, military hardware and commercial forgings. In the second half of the century the company entered the fittings and valve markets with the introduction of the Olet® fitting line. Subsequently complementary products were added including forged steel fittings, forged steel valves and more recently cast steel valves. The company was privately owned until 1967, when it was sold to Gulf & Western Industries. Under Gulf & Western, Bonney continued to produce valves and fittings at plants located in the USA and Italy. Bonney Forge remained a Gulf & Western company until 1984 when John Leone led a successful leverage buyout from Gulf & Western. Since that time, Bonney Forge has remained a private, closely held family owned company. For more than a century, Bonney Forge has achieved manufacturing excellence through the detailed attention to customer's needs and producing consistently superior flow control products. Today, the Bonney Forge name is synonymous with quality that exceeds all industry standards.

Bonney (1876-1909 Philadelphia, PA / 1909-1953 Allentown, PA) Sub Brands / Trade Names / Trademarks

  • There are two trademarks listed in this document from 1915 that cannot yet be found.  Registration numbers 104,199 (Vises and Lathe-dogs) and 105,781 (Wrenches)
  • Edit: Thanks to Russ Allen, the​ Trademarks are:

  • We found another Trademark, #99,274 that also does not come up in TSDR.
  • Edit: Thanks to Russ Allen, the​ Trademark is:
    • Vixen - (Wrenches) (First Use 1908)

  • Two trademarks from 1923 that do not come up in TSDR: #172,633 and #173,993 (found on page 1,513 in the 1923 Index of Patents under topic Wrenches in Class 23)
  • Edit: Thanks to Russ Allen, the 1923 Trademarks are:

  • 'CV' - (Tappet Wrenches) (First Use 11/4/1922)

  • 'CV' - (Engineers, Open-End, Single End Service, and Water Pump Packing Nut Wrenches) (First Use 12/19/1922)

  • Zenel (Wrenches, Ratchets) (First Use 8/31/1932)

  • 'C V' (letters only) (Engineers Wrenches, Open End Wrenches, Single End Service Wrenches) (First Use 12/19/1922) //
  • 'C V' (Letters only) (Mechanics' Tools) (First Use 12/19/1922)
  • Bonaloy (Wrenches) (First Use 3/6/1939)

  • Hercules (Vises, Adjustables) (First Use 1904)

  • Hercules -Tapered- (Wrenches, Sockets & Attachments) (First Use 8/25/1928)

  • Wrenches (Drawing of a DOE with sticker on shank) (First Use 11/15/1922)

  • Tomahawk (Combination Tool - Hammer, hatchet, pincers, wire-cutter, belt punch, tack claw, screwdriver, and wire splicing clamp) (First Use 4/1908)

  • Ajax (Vises)
  • Vixen (Alligator Wrenches)
  • Masterpiece (Pipe Wrenches)
  • Always Ready (Alligator Wrenches)
  • Crocodile (Alligator Wrenches)
  • Bonney Stillson (Pipe Wrenches)
  • Gipsey (Vises)
  • Bonney (Arched Letters) (Wrenches & Vises) (First Use 1876) ​NOTE: This Trademark was filed by Armstead O. Bills (Vice President) on 11/27/1907) **Now owned by Snap-On

  • Lehigh (Bonney Shield design with Lehigh) (First Use 12/15/1915) (appears to be mostly masonry tools but trademark also lists wrenches and vises)

  • SIMANG (Chisels, Wrenches, Hammers, Snips, etc.) (First Use 9/1/1926)

  • BONNEY - Text (All Tools) (First Use December, 1945) Filed by Utica Tool Co. // **Now owned by Snap-On

  • LOC-RITE - (Socket Wrenches) (First use 2/14/1964) Filed by Kelsey-Hayes // **Now owned by Snap-On

   Contract Production for:

  • Crescent Niagara (Ratchets)
  • John Deere (Wrenches, Ratchets, Drive Tools, Sockets)
  • Bethlehem Spark Plug Co. (Ratchets)
  • MATCO (Wrenches)
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Caterpillar
  • Pratt-Whitney
  • Craftsman (C-####-C Wrenches)
  • Dayton (Ratchets [sweetheart FT])

Key Tool Stamping Terms (stamped/forged into tools):

  • Chrome - Vanadium (Circle CV)
  • Zenel
  • Bonaloy
  • Alloy Steel

Bonney Patents

Charles S. Bonney Patents



I've put together a history (mostly later) from a bunch of bits I've heard through the years. Steve at Epstein's was very kind and contributed alot of interesting tidbits.

Cooper bought Bonney/Utica from Triangle Tools in 1990 or so. But it was basically so they could get their hands on the Utica pliers division. They didn't really care much about the Bonney end of it. Bonney was profitable up until the very end, but, when they needed to do some capital investment on the tooling, Cooper just closed them down. Epstein's then bought out the Eastern USA inventory. That was 1994. I heard the Western USA inventory went to a distributor in Denver (Charlie's Second Hand Store) - which I did actually visit.
When the naval base in Alameda shrunk/got closed down, a surplus supplier by the name of LottaStuff bought the whole shebang from them, and it supposedly had a ton of Bonney tools. I downloaded a copy of their inventory. A lot of stuff (pun intended)! Actually talked to the owner once, and then his daughter later on after he had a stroke. But in the interim he was raided by the ATF, and they never recovered from that. I could not nail them down on any items and taking payment. I believe that stuff got sold to an ebay seller, and a used tool place in Auburn.

Bonney was non-union, and did all their finishing by hand. But they couldn't compete with the influx of Chinese tools, so, that was that. Granco Industries in Missouri got a hold of the dies and pull-broaches, and was told by one of the VP's that they were planning to re-introduce Bonney tools one at a time - over time - using that old tooling. A few pieces actually got made. But they then ran into financial trouble, and then the gov stepped in. I heard the tooling was sold for scrap in 2011.

1911 article, source unknown. via eBay. Article text:

The Bonney Vise & Tool Works, 3025 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pa., are offering the Hercules All Steel Machinists' Anvil Vise, herewith illustrated, in connection with a general line of all steel vises. The steel faces of the vises are milled and fitted to the jaws, and are renewable at a small cost. The sliding jaws, it is remarked, will not break. Being of all steel they combine great strength and durability. The vise shown has a combined swivel and a stationary base. It is made in four sizes, with length of jaw from 2 to 3½ inches. The smallest size vise weighs eight pounds, and the largest 35 pounds. We are informed that the company have taken a contract to equip the new American Locomotive Co., which is to be established at Nijmi Novgorod, Russia. A catalogue showing the entire line of vises may be obtained upon request.