Cornwell Research - A Tale of Tales

It has been the consistent story that Eugene Cornwell slaved over a forge in a small blacksmith shop in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio before creating Cornwell Tools.  In this blog, we will tell a much different tale. 

***Update 8-11-2016***

Due to newly discovered information, we are inclined to offer a new theory on the early Cornwell story.  We are asserting that B. L. Coleman, a noted area banker, and the Kemmerline family at some point in early 1919 decided to start a tool company.  Meanwhile, Eugene Cornwell had been perfecting a new process for treating and hardening steel just a couple hundred miles away in Northumberland, PA while running operations at his father's Keystone Forging Co..  We assert that Mr. Kemmerline was sold on the process and decided to name his company after the "Cornwell Process" for treating steel.  As far as Mr. H. L. Wandsneider, the only place the name appears is within the announcement below.  During this timeframe (late teens) and according to our research, it appears that the only place in the U.S. where any Wandsneider family member resided was Waukesha, WI.  We believe that Eugene Cornwell was simply offered an officer position in the company due to his steel treating contribution.  In the 1920 U. S. census, taken on 7 January, 1920 (just 40 or so days after registering Cornwell in Ohio) Eugene, his wife and children are living next door to Isaac Cornwell on Water St. in Northumberland, PA.  According to the 1930 census, Eugene and family are renting on Wark Ave. in Detroit, MI and he is working as a Mechanical Engineer for an Auto Factory.  By 1935, the family has moved to Fredericksburg, VA and own a home at 906 Sylvania Ave.  His draft registration card from 1941 shows him working for Sylvania Industrial Corp. in Fredericksburg, VA and living at the same Sylvania Avenue address.  Eugene passed away in 1972 and is buried in Fredericksburg, VA.  As a side note his son, also Eugene, was a WWII and Korean War Veteran and is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

Conclusions / Conjecture:  We do not believe Eugene had anything more to do with Cornwell Quality Tools than simply the name and steel treating process.  However, while we have yet to find proof, we do find it plausible that Eugene returned to Northumberland and leveraged the die making and forging capabilities of Keystone Forging Co. to get his namesake company off the ground by producing their first tools. 

We also offer this link to the Ken-Tool website for their version of at least a portion of the Cornwell story.  However, we have found no evidence at all supporting the information on the Ken-Tool site.

Here is what we've found with regards to the J. A. Kennedy Story on the Ken-Tool website, and how it ultimately ties in to Cornwell:

  1. Kennedy founded the Pacific Rim Tool Co. in Cleveland in 1920.  The trademark (SN=185,369) on "PAC RIM" claims a first use date of 7/1/1920.  The PAC RIM tool is also known as the "Kennedy C. W. C."
  2. In 1925, Kennedy set up the Universal Rim & Tyre Co. in Birmingham England for European manufacturing of his rim tool.
  3. The Pacific Rim Tool Co. is last mentioned in the January, 1929 edition of Periodic Inspection
  4. The April, 1929 edition of Chilton has the Kennedy C. W. C. tool being manufactured by the APKO Pacific Tool Co. (also Cleveland)
  5. 1928 - APKO PATENT Tool Co. LTD (England) introduces an "adjustable rim tool" --- Is this relevant?  "APKO" is consistent?
  6. 8/27/1936 - Kennedy Service Tools Co. established -- Officers: Ingersoll, Kemmerline, Kennedy
  7. 1937 - Ken-Tool is founded by J. A. Kennedy, "formerly with the Kennedy Service Tools Co."

Update: Frank Kemmerline and Cornwell

A recently obtained article from the Akron Library (dated 8/11/1967) profiles the life of the philanthropic Frank Kemmerline.  It identifies Kemmerline as a major investor in Cornwell at the time of its founding in 1919.  The article also states that by 1924, Kemmerline was Treasurer and General Manager and moved the company to Mogadore shortly after becoming GM.  Further, the article states that Kemmerline donated the 2 acres upon which the Mogadore Cornwell factory was built.

As a result of this new information on Mr. Kemmerline, as well as the snippet of the formation of the Titan-Rite Co. by Coleman and Cornwell, we are leaning toward the idea that Kemmerline took over operations of Cornwell in 1924, at which point Eugene Cornwell moved on to other business, no longer having a role in the Cornwell company, except perhaps as an investor.

4/20/2016 Update:

A newly discovered article in the November 26, 1940 edition of The Akron Beacon Journal profiles the history of Cornwell Quality Tools and Frank Kemmerline.  The article notes that Frank and his brother Art were local dairy farm owners and investors in the Cornwell company at it's inception in 1919.  It further states that they invested more money in the company in 1920 when Frank became a director, and in 1921, the company was reorganized and Frank took over active management of the company.  The article notes that Frank recognized his lack of knowledge in the tool industry and promptly enrolled for two years at the Case School in Cleveland and furthered his knowledge spending a year in night school at Akron University.  The disposition of Eugene Cornwell and B. L. Coleman is not addressed in this particular article.

By September of 1924, Cornwell begins marketing their "Swedish Charcoal Process Molebdenum Steel" for the making of their tools.  Prior to this time, Corwell tools were marketed as being produced from the "Cornwell Secret Formula."

In the 1924/1925 edition of Michigan Alumnus (University Alumni Journal), an advertisement for United Alloy Steel Corporation of Canton, OH claims Cornwell Tools are made from their special "U-Loy" steel alloy.

If we follow the advertisements which appear in virtually every Popular Mechanics issue from 1923 on, we see that in May of 1928, Cornwell begins to mention "Chrome Molebdenum" as opposed to the traditional Swedish Charcoal Process Molebdenum Steel.  This appears to be a transition point for Cornwell tool alloys.

The 1926 Year Book of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers appears to list a Chas B. Ingersoll as President of Cornwell Quality Tools Co.  He is still listed as President in the 1928 edition.

The December 21, 1956 Edition of the Akron Beacon

The newspaper reports Mr. Kemmerline's retirement at age 74 and a "new team at the healm" of Cornwell operations.  The article notes he has been with Cornwell for 36 years (1920) and states that Mr. Kemmerline will stay on as Director and Chairman of the Board.  The article goes on to note that C. B. Ingersoll Sr. (age 72) has also resigned as President but will remain as Director.  The following is identified as the new management team:

  • Charles M. Zust - President & General Manager (former head of the Charles M. Zust Co. industrial management consultants and active consultant to Cornwell, as well as Chairman of the Executive Committee and a Director for the prior 2 1/2 years)
  • E. Arthur Kemmerline - Treasurer (Former VP, brother of J. F. Kemmerline and Cornwell veteran of 20 years.)
  • Robert C. Brouse - Secretary (Served as a Director at Cornwell since 1954)
  • Clifford E. Rickel - Controller and Assistant Treasurer (former Assistant Treasurer)
  • Kenneth H. Hulbert - VP Sales (Former General Sales Manager)
  • C. B. Ingersoll Jr. - Head of new product development and new Member of the Executive Committee

The article also notes many of Frank Kemmerline's achievements and affirms he will be acting in a consulting capacity.  His achievements as noted in the article include:

  • Instrumental in the early introduction of alloy steels to the industry;
  • Director of the Mogadore Savings Bank;
  • VP & Director of Permanent Federal Savings & Loan Association of Akron;
  • President of the Board of Trustees during construction of Green Cross Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls;
  • Trustee East Akron Board of Trade;
  • Member of Village Council of Mogadore;
  • Chairman of the Mogadore Sewer and Water Committee;
  • Along with his brother Arthur, planned developed and operated the Mogadore Knolls Golf Club.

While not tool related, it is interesting to note here that in 1964, the House Committee on Banking and Currency / Subcommittee on Domestic Finance published a report naming Frank Kemmerline as one of the "Twenty Largest Stockholders of Record in Member Banks of the Federal Reserve System."

UPDATE Vanadium Tool Co. Acquisition: We have discovered (thanks to a tip from a local Ohio resident) an article in the November 1, 1974 edition of The Messenger newspaper (requires free account to access link) of Athens, OH announcing the sale of Vanadium Tool Co. to Cornwell on October 30, 1974.  The article goes on to note that VTC has been producing wrenches for Cornwell for a number of years and will continue to produce wrenches, punches, and chisels under the Vanadium name and expand it's production of Vanadium and Cornwell items.  The article further notes that Mr. Topping will continue as President and that he purchased VTC from Mr. Harmon in 1969.  The article also notes that VTC was founded by Mr. Harmon, his father and three other unnamed men in 1945.

The accouncement of Mr. Topping's purchase is also carried in The Messenger of June 22, 1969 (free account needed to access link).  The article notes that Mr. Topping was VP of Sales for SK-Wayne, a subsidiary of Dresser at the time.  It further states that Mr. Topping had been Sales and Plant Manager of SK - Lectrolite in Defiance.  The article further notes the other investors: John H. Melcher, Jr.; Thomas J. McCann, Jr.; H. Clark Harvey, Jr.  This article also notes that the Harmon family owned VTC outright since 1962.

In an article in The Messenger from July 23, 1972, it is revealed that VTC also makes tools for labels such as S-K and Craftsman.  The article goes on to note that they will be producing 700,000 punches for "a large tool maker" this year (1972).  Interestingly, and somewhat comical, Mr. Topping notes that "if he were approached by a large corporation seeking to take over his operation, he would not accept the offer."  This is just 2 years before selling the company to Cornwell.

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To tell this story properly, we must go back to 1913, when Isaac Cornwell (Eugene's father) and T. O. Van Alen bought out the majority stock holder (another Van Alen) and took over operations of the Keystone Forging Co. of Northumberland, PA.  Keystone Forging Co was incorporated in Northumberland, PA on 19 April, 1895.  The incorporators are notes as C. G. VanAlen, G. R. VanAlen, W. B. Waples "among others."  In March of 1896, the company increased it's former capacity by 40%.  In 1907, they doubled their capital stock.  This image pictures Mssrs. Cornwell and Van Alen from the August 1919 edition of The Spokesman.

At the time of the takover, the officers were:

  • Isaac Cornwell - President & General Manager
  • W. B. Waples - Vice President
  • T. O. Van Alen - Secretary / Treasurer
  • J. D. Weekes - Sales Manager

Isaac Cornwell took over leadership at Keystone in 1909, after having worked at the plant since 1894 and is credited with most of the growth and expansion of the company during that period.  -  Motor Body, November, 1909

After 1919, Isaac Cornwell basically disappears and does not show up in any searches from 1920 on.  In 1923, Automotive Industries reports the merger of the Keystone Forging Co. with M. J. Ford Manufacturing Co.  The name of the company is reported to continue to be The Keystone Forging Co.  The Keystone Forging Co. survives today and here is a link to their history page.

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Meanwhile, while his father was gaining control of the Keystone Forging Co., Eugene was finishing up his fourth year at Cornell University studying Mechanical Engineering.  Immediately after graduation, Eugene was hired by his father in 1915 to run all aspects of plant manufacturing operations, as well as the design of their dies.  Eugene was immediately voted onto the Board of Directors.  This article is from the September, 1915 edition of The Spokesman.

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Eugene is listed in all the publications of the day dealing with steel processing, treatment and production and always associated with The Keystone Forge Co.  We have found listings where Eugene is listed as the "attending representative" of Keystone as late as August of 1919.

This image comes from the December 18, 1919 Edition of Iron Age, announcing the formation of the Cornwell Tools Co. in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  We have found this same announcement as early as September, 1919 in other publications.  Officers noted in the announcement are:

  • B. L. Coleman - President
  • Eugene Cornwell - Vice President
  • H. L. Wandsneider - Secretary, Treasurer and General Manager

The article also mentions that mssrs. Cornwell and Coleman have been operating a plant in Pittsburgh using the Cornwell process for forging, treating and tempering tools.

Other announcements name the company as "The Cornwell Quality Tools Co." and also list a C. R. Barnes and L. Orlando Wilcox as principals.

We found the Ohio State Record - Annual Report of the Secretary of State noting the official state corporation filing date for the Cornwell company of 11/14/1919.

Very little information has been discovered regarding the time between the formation of the company and mid-1923, when advertisements begin appearing monthly in the Popular Mechanics publications.

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The January? 1925 edition of The Iron Trade Review announces the formation of a new company by the name of The Titan-Rite Co. in Elmira, NY to manufacture machinist tools.  This is important because the officers of this company are B. L. and L. A. Coleman, and E. Cornwell.  Very little information exists on the Titan-Rite Co. however we were able to locate a listing on The Wrenching News website for a Titan-Rite Fence Tool (Item 0470).  The patent (1,613,871) for the Fence Tool was filed by B. L. Coleman on Apr 6, 1925 and awarded on January 11, 1927.  The 1944 edition of the Robert D. Fisher Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities appears to note that the Titan-Rite company went out of business in 1936.  Very little information exists on Eugene Cornwell's life after Titan-Rite.  The 1930 census lists his location as Michigan.  One geneological website references his occupation as having been an engineer with Sylvania.

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This is a picture from the 11th Annual Cornwell Sales Conference held in December of 1940.  At the left is E. A. Kemmerline (VP), to his right is Forest Kemmerline (Sec), Mr. Wise (host), and far right is Frank Kemmerline.

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In 1957, Cornwell was sold to Raymond H. C. Moeller and B. D. Gordon.  The men overhauled Cornwell, modernizing production facilities, uniforming the sales force, and expanding Cornwell's distribution to a much wider base.  By 1962, Cornwell's sales were growing at an average of 25% per year.

We believe that the fathers of Messrs. Moeller and Gordon were prolific "company founders" throughout the 1920 - 1940s timeframe.  We find no less than 15 companies where they are listed as officers in new companies.