Milwaukee and The Tool Industry

This blog / notes page was started as a result of the complicated and convoluted nature of the early tool industry in Milwaukee.  Spawned as a result of research on early Milwaukee Tool & Forge, this page will attempt to capture all our notes on related principals and events.

Milwaukee Tool & Forge

First, let us start with the formation of Milwaukee Tool & Forge Company as related in the September 27, 1917 issue of Iron Age.  The principals of this enterprise were reported as George F. Phillips, R.L. Wheeler, and George Haubert.  These three gentlemen, along with others, will be the focus of the research contained in the next few paragraphs.

In 1911, Mssrs Wheeler and Phillips started the Ideal Laundry Co., located at "1520 24 Wells St., Milwaukee."  Wheeler - President // Phillips - Sec. / Treasurer.  The state of Wisconsin industry report for 1911 reported 57 employees.  The 1919 Wisconsin Gazetteer lists the company at 1524 Wells in Milwaukee.  We have not yet resolved the duration of Mssrs Wheeler & Phillips' involvement with the company.

In March of 1916, Mr. Haubert started the Crary Tool Co., and located the company at 220 Becher St. in South Milwaukee.  The April 8, 1916 edition of The American Artisan notes that they purchased all equipment and rights to the Crary Process Company of Minneapolis and moved the business to Milwaukee.  This article also notes that they will make cold chisels, punches and caulking tools.  Aside from Mr. Haubert, principals in the company included:

  • Mr. John Hoerl
  • Mr. William C. Garent
  • Mr. George E. Garent

The stated business of the Crary Tool Co. was the manufacture of "Chisels, Pliers, Wrenches and similar back tools."

At the same time, the above gentlemen (Haubert, Hoerl and both Garents) started The Badger Auto Body Co. to produce car and auto vehicle bodies and trim.  Motor Age.

Although we don't know if it's connected, or the same George Haubert, the May 23, 1906 edition of Horseless Age reports George Haubert as incorporator of The Vehicle Top & Supply Co. in St. Louis.

In the December, 1917 Issue of the Iron Trade Review, it is reported that Mr. Haubert (noted as President of the Crary Tool Co.) has established The Modern Steel Treating Co.  Other principals in the company include:

  • 1917 - Mr. C. Walker. Esau
  • 1917 - Mr. Adam J. Eimermann (Note: 1921 Gazetteer lists him as a Lawyer // killed by a hit & run motorist on 6/11/29)
  • 1921 - Mr. C. Walker. Esau - President
  • 1921 - Mr. J. J. Geary - Vice President
  • 1921 - Mr. J. J. Bonham - Sec.
  • 1921 - Mr. W. J. Schrank - Treas.

The stated business of The Modern Steel Treating Co. is the heat treatment and annealing of steel.  "It will be involved in heat-treating metals by a new process evolved by Mr. Haubert."  Addresses discovered are:

  • 1918 - 453 38th Avenue
  • 1921 - 38th & Lapham
  • 1922 - 617 38th Avenue (Note the MTF address 1 door away)

Mr. C. W. Esau has also been found as the President of the Esau-Kroening Construction Co. of Milwaukee, founded in 1912.  Other principals included R. H. and Amelia Kroening.

After 1922, the Modern Steel Treating Co. can no longer be found in any directories or publications.

On 10/25/1917, it was reported that Milwaukee Tool & Forge acquired The Crary Tool Co. and plans to extensively enlarge the facility.

In the 12/19/1918 edition of the Iron Trade Review, it was reported that the facilities of the Milwaukee Tool & Forge Co. were completely destroyed by a fire on 10/17/1918.  The rebuild was listed at 619 38th Ave.  At this point it is interesting to point out that the Modern Steel Treating Co. and MTF are located at 617 and 619 38th Ave respectively.  Given their locations, the fact that Modern Steel Treating Co. disappears in 1922, it is plausible they became part of MTF and moved along with them to South Milwaukee in late 1922.  Another hint to this merger is MTF begins to appear in Steel Treating and Processing publications in 1923.

The January, 1922 edition of Mill Supplies announces that the Milwaukee Tool & Forge Co. has increased it's capital stock and will be moving to South Milwaukee. 

We have also discovered possible evidence of Milwaukee Tool and Forge in the form of "Milwaukee Tool and Forge of New England."  The 1927 edition of Acts and Resolves Passed by the General Court of Massechussettes lists the Milwaukee Tool and Forge of New England being dissolved.  This may or may not have been a sales entity for the East Coast.

In 1932, Milwaukee Tool & Forge merged with several other companies to form the Lectrolite Corp. in Defiance, OH.  Please see our research "Sherman Klove & Affiliated" for more details.

Husky Wrench Company

The January 2, 1924 edition of The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin reports the new corporation of the Husky Wrench Company.  Principals named are:

  • Joseph O. Wirtish
  • Siegmund Mandl
  • Oscar Engerson

According to a short article in a 1924 edition of Automotive Industries, Mandl lures the manager of the Snap-On Company, Joseph Wirtish, away and, along with Oscar W. Engerson and John Zummach, they form the Husky Wrench Co.  According to the trademark for "Husky Wrenches and Husky Socket-Wrench Sets," Mandl claims first use on January 29, 1924.

The announcement reads:  "The Husky Wrench Co. of Milwaukee has been organized by a number of men formerly with the Snap-On Wrench Co. of that city to engage in the line of manufacturing mechanics' tools, especially for garage and repairshop use and for original car kit equipment.  Joseph O. Whirtish, formerly manager of the Snap-On Company, and Sigmund Mandl, and Oscar Engerson are the principals in the company."

On February 9, 1924, Sigmund filed an application for the trademark "Husky" underline and the registration was issued on July 22, 1924. The application lists the company address as 1610 Vliet Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  An interesting note is until December 21, 1923, the 1610 Vliet address is used by the Suran Jewelry store.  The address is still used by Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Suran until at least 1930.  By 1927, Husky was listed at the address of 27th & Florence in Milwaukee.

Effective January 1, 1929, Husky is sold to Olsen Manufacturing and moved to Kenosha.  Publications of the day make it clear that Mr. Zumach left as President almost immediately, and we believe Mr. Mandl made the move to Blackhawk at about this time as well.  By December of 1931, Mandl was filing patents with Pfauser for Blackhawk.

We have recently uncovered an advertisement in the 25 October, 1934 edition of the Racine Journal-Times, and again in the December 7th and 8th editions, announcing the entire contents of the Kenosha Husky Wrench factory are to be sold on the following weekends respectively.  This could indicate a timeline for the purchase of Husky by New Britain, which has previously been unknown.  The next time Husky shows up in any advertisement / publication is in an advertisement dated 3 January, 1941 as a brand being sold by Ceramic Auto Supply in Ohio, and subsequently the July 22, 1943 edition of Hardware Age, which shows an address for Husky in New Britain, CT.

The December 2, 1976 edition of The Wisconsin Jewish Chronical published Sigmund Mandl's obituary, having passed away on November 18, 1976 from complications following surgery.